Old-school teaching methods give way to innovative education

As a new decade narrows in with the promise of unprecedented socio-economic and environmental challenges, it’s hard to grasp what the world will look like in the year 2030. What careers will Generation Z be leading and what size will their carbon footprint be? In this fast-changing landscape, our education systems will bear the responsibility of training students to solve tough problems related to climate change.

However, only a small percentage of them are properly prepared to do so.

REAL School Budapest is setting the standard for the school of the future. It’s mission? “REAL life learning for a sustainable world.” It’s Relevant, Entrepreneurial, Art-filled Learning that promotes creativity, critical thinking and collaborative problem solving.

Newly founded by EIT Climate-KIC Supervisory Board member Barna Baráth, his vision for 21-century learning has coalesced in an English language, international school inspired by sustainability. Students in grades K-12 are immersed in nature, acquire knowledge through hands-on projects, turn creative ideas into reality, and develop the mindsets, knowledge and skills needed to build a better world.

“I believe that the world needs social entrepreneurs, thinkers and doers who can solve the challenges that we are leaving for the next generation,” expressed Baráth.

Baráth and the greater EIT Climate-KIC community understand that our education systems can enable youth to be inspired and empowered. A reimagined learning environment lends students the opportunity to discover their passions, foster transferable skills for the future, and build confidence in possessing student agency.

“Even kids as young as 4 years old can experience that they have the power to make a difference in the world. If you allow this to flourish while providing them with the toolkits and the experience to make a difference, then we will end up with a much better world together,” explained Baráth.

REAL School challenges some of the fundamental premises of mainstream education. Where old-school teaching methods aim to build a knowledge base and test for fact recall, REAL School fosters competencies, values, knowledge and motivations for creating impact.

“Instead of standardized testing, we introduce a model of sharing within the community of what we have achieved, what we have created, and what difference we’ve made,” described Baráth. “Then, the whole education learning journey gives way to that.”

At its core, REAL School embodies the principles of the Young Innovators programme by introducing children to a systems innovation approach that fosters social awareness and entrepreneurial thinking. Both organizations share a common goal of empowering youth to pursue solutions aimed at addressing climate challenges through innovation.

“Ultimately, if you can create a journey from very early on that gives students the opportunity to be active, direct their own learning, and make their own choices about their own lives, then they will grow up setting goals for themselves and being able to achieve them,” explained Baráth.

The next few years are the most important in our history to prepare future generations to lead a prosperous, inclusive, resilient society based on a net-zero carbon circular economy. Beyond investing in Europe’s youth, the Young Innovators programme has set some ambitious goals: Empower 3 million teens by 2030 and transform over 10% of all teens living in Europe into Climate Champions.

“The [programme] gives me a lot of hope that we may be able to scale this systematically and laterally, not just in pockets,” expressed Baráth.

Exposing students to climate change curriculum at an early age is critical for raising the next generation of sustainable systems-thinkers. The influence of forward-thinking educators and the cooperation of school systems will prove equally important in scaling innovative learning across the European Union.