Expert Q&A | Gwen Colman

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Expert Q&A: Gwen Colman


Q: What new literacies will better prepare students for the future?

A: With the Genuine Progress Index, the measurements we do on educational attainment are about what makes an educated person. So that's beyond just being in school, and it goes beyond the standardized testing and school dropout rates that are usually measured to show whether education is successful or not in a certain place.

What we measure is literacies, starting with eco-literacy. How much do you know about the environment and your impact on the environment? What do you know about the biodiversity of where you live? Then also indigenous literacy–what do you know about the people who were originally inhabiting the place where you live, and their culture and wisdom? Also social awareness and global issues–what do you know about the rest of the world and your country's place in the world and how your country's policies are affecting the rest of the world? So all of these are literacies, and that's what it takes to really make an educated person. You can't just be talking about reading, writing and arithmetic anymore.

Q: What are the challenges in providing this kind of education to students, and how can they be overcome?

A: I think that you can't try to know everything. The world is changing so fast that we can't see ahead the way things are going to be 10 years from now, we can't see the new technologies that are going to be there, we can't see the new jobs that are going to exist, so you can't do your education based on what is now. You have to do it based on who you want to be as a person.

Youth have to realize that they're already active members of the world, and how much of what they do now is shaping their future. They can't wait until they're done school; they have to be involved right away and consider themselves full participants when they're still young. If they start young, they can make great strides. And if they wait until they're older and all they can think about is getting a job, they won't have the idealism to do it.

—Gwen Colman
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