Making our classrooms futureproof

We don’t need a future workforce of clones but an army of creative individuals who will change our world for the better, hence why the classroom needs to be designed around the students and not the other way round!


Children spend most of their life in a classroom, the second most important place after the home. Thus, we need to create stimulating environments for children if we want them to become the leaders of tomorrow. Educators have long realized that the one size fits all classroom is long dead; thus, we need to reinvent it. The following are some insights into what a classroom should be in this day and age.

Digital technology must be an integral part of learning. Here I’m not just referring to interactive whiteboards but more towards introducing Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policies whereby every child can use a laptop or tablet, which they bring from home. If we look at what’s happening at home, the time spent using mobile devices tripled in the past few years. Thus we need to teach our kids how to manage their digital life since guardians either don’t have the knowledge or cannot be with them all the time. Online safety, digital competencies, and responsibilities should all be part of the curriculum.

But the way we teach also needs to evolve, and digital technologies provide a solution since they open up the possibilities of autonomous learning. In a world rich in information, rather than feeding children truckloads of prepackaged knowledge, we need to stimulate and guide them through a personalized learning journey. Student-led learning is more effective and helps children develop 21st-century skills like critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, media literacy, and many others. It emphasizes their interests and makes learning contagious since they tend to influence each other.

Such an approach very much reflects what the workforce of tomorrow needs. Remember that all workplaces are going digital. Automation will replace the most boring of jobs, thus allowing people to do what they do best; communicate with each other and solve challenging problems. Hence why CEOs are constantly pressuring schools to focus on soft skills. They argue that information is available to everyone, so the factors that distinguish one employee from another are his attitude and soft skills. So much so that some countries are looking beyond standardized testing because they are not flexible and do not assess a student’s actual abilities and knowledge.

Our classrooms, too, need to change by being flexible and promoting student ownership if we want to offer a better learning environment. These learning spaces comprise several zones: the investigation, development, creation, presentation, interaction, and exchange areas.   

  • The investigation area allows students to search for reliable multimedia information beyond what the teacher provides. It helps students sharpen their research skills while discerning content.
  • The development zone will enable children to collaborate and discuss ideas in a non-judgemental setting, thus turning half-baked thoughts into solid concepts. This process will allow them to discuss civilly and learn to accept other people’s viewpoints even though they might disagree with them. In the end, they have to find a compromise and ensure the successful completion of the task.
  • The creation spot provides them with tools to help them bring their ideas to life. These range from digital devices (such as a camera or a microphone) to crafting material. In an age where creators are valued more than consumers, students need to gain such skills.
  • The presentation theater allows them to showcase their creations and sharpen their public speaking skills.
  • The interaction site allows students to seek feedback from other students and defend their creations from critics. Such an approach is essential for various reasons, and we shouldn’t shy away from it. Sharing constructive criticism in schools is important because our work improves when we embrace such comments. Students should be humble enough to accept that their work is not perfect and that there is always room for improvement.
  • Finally, the exchange areas provide students with a safe space to share experiences and extract from them the valuable lessons they learnt.

Of course, we are not proposing that all classrooms include all the areas because it is unrealistic to have all these zones in one class. So the most plausible solution would be to use different locations around the school; after all, there’s nothing wrong with freeing students from the four walls of their classroom. But educators should strive to utilize the different areas frequently and not as a one-off initiative. Only if we integrate digital and soft skills within the mainstream curriculum can we hope to start preparing our children for the challenges of tomorrow.

We should also shift from mastery to personal achievement for specific subjects. While having a standard exam for everyone might sound ideal, pushing everyone through the same sieve is counterproductive. All children are different, each having their strengths and weaknesses, and we cannot use the same measuring tape for everyone. While mastery in the core subjects is essential to give every child a general educational level, we should use the other topics to help children find their life calling. They should expose children to all the other subjects irrespective of whether they are science-based, financial, the arts, sports or any under topic offered by the school. However, the emphasis here should not be mastery but personal achievement. The only race children should participate in is not the one against their peers but the race of life. So it’s more valuable to celebrate a student who explores various topics and has the flexibility to zoom in on those which interest him rather than focus on a few. Subjects should also span beyond their boundaries, fuse with others and allow students to mix-and-match various topics.     

The mass production kind of classroom is way beyond its expiry date. We don’t need a future workforce of clones but an army of creative individuals who will change our world for the better, hence why the classroom needs to be designed around the students and not the other way round!

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