Humanity is facing global challenges. Climate change, war, economic crisis, poverty and inadequate health care in many areas of the world require new and innovative approaches, and it is becoming increasingly clear that solutions to these challenges cannot be left to the public authorities alone. Moreover, real change will only come about through the commitment of numerous people and the interaction of diverse solutions. We are sending our children out into a world in which so much needs to be changed. Creativity, courage and a sense of responsibility count among the key competencies that will be required in the future. Intelligence and scientific skills will not be enough to find new solutions to the challenges ahead. Instead, a particular understanding and approach are required.
Children need to believe in their own effectiveness. Although individuals may not be able to save the world and individual actions may occasionally feel like a drop in the ocean, many people working in many places can implement small solutions that can work wonders. However, this understanding has to be mediated and learned. Children need to realise that ‘I’ can make a difference, and that ‘my’ contribution not only counts but that it is important. This view is gradually taking root in the educational system. Under the heading of ‘changemaking’, more and more educational institutions are working with different formats to encourage learners to think about real problems in industry and research, and to develop and implement small solutions.
In India, one school is primarily dedicated to solving environmental problems and food issues; in Germany, a boy has founded an initiative that has already led several billion trees to be planted throughout the world; similarly, the curriculum of many universities mainly consists of students helping each other to implement projects aimed at solving social or environmental problems
A feeling of self-efficacy strengthens motivation and confidence
In addition to the specific solutions that can be developed in this manner, this form of learning provides learners with an enormous amount of motivation. Learners come to realise that they really can contribute to change and that they only need specific information to do so. The great unresolved challenges of our time can be used to encourage learners to delve into many different fields. If learners want to understand and solve environmental problems, they need skills associated with geography, economics, history, biology, physics, mathematics, engineering and many other subjects. In addition, learners come to realise that the great challenges facing humanity cannot be solved alone, and this automatically leads to an understanding of the importance of social skills.
Teaching children that they can actively change our society and that they can find solutions to environmental problems and issues of social justice is perhaps the most important task of the modern educational system – at both the individual and the global level. When learning is experienced as meaningful, it provides pleasure, and this also strengthens people’s motivation and self-esteem. At the same time, children and young people often deal with problems in a far more specific manner than adults and often find solutions that would not have occurred to adults – perhaps because they appear to be too simple.