Most Likely to Succeed – are we having fun yet?

Most Likely to Succeed – are we having fun yet?

Take a look back on last November's #BeCollective event the regional premiere of educational documentary 'Most Likely to Succeed'. The event stimulated a lively discussion about the future of education. Julie Watson, member of the audience, reflects on the film... 

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Most Likely to Succeed is a provocative documentary film which focuses on the story of a school in California that’s rethinking what the experience of going to school looks like. As we follow students, parents and teachers through an inspired yet unorthodox school experience, we are asked to consider what sort of educational environment is most likely to succeed in the 21st century?

Our current educational system was developed to fulfil the needs of a rising industrial age from over a century ago and is no longer fit for purpose. The world has changed so profoundly and with such speed that no one knows what will be relevant to our young people in the future. Schools are attempting to teach and test skills yet leave graduates woefully unprepared for the 21st Century.

As part of the Our Future City network, I had the privilege to be invited to attend a special screening and Q&A of Most Likely to Succeed together with teachers, artists, educators, and academics from the Greater Brighton area. I was encouraged and frustrated by the event. We agreed it was an inspiring film – to watch educators and students whole heartedly co-creating the learning experience was incredibly moving. Yet it made us feel disempowered… ‘why can’t we do this’ I heard someone say.

The Q&A began disparagingly. Educational managers pointed fingers at the ‘inadequately trained’ educators; Teachers described the mountain of daily outcomes required of them. Everyone shook their heads when OFSTED was mentioned. I squirmed in my seat feeling we were all missing the point.

There must be a complete overhaul of the National Curriculum before we can even begin to evaluate our local schools or educators. We’re doing the best we can but we are using a broken template. The National Curriculum is an outdated hierarchical top down framework, so much so that our schools have very little elbow room.

I recognised within the film key themes from the brilliant work of Sir Ken Robinson. In 1998, he led a UK commission on creativity, education and the economy (CCE) where his report, All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education was influential. It stressed all children and young people can benefit from the development of their creative side, and that creativity should be embedded and developed in all areas of the school curriculum – not just an add-on. Some great work came out of this report, and should continue to be the basis of transformative change within education.

When I was writing my MA dissertation on CCE at Sussex University, I interviewed Professor Anne Bamford, a World Scholar for UNESCO who pointed out the wording in Article 27 of the 1946 UN Charter of Human Rights. It states: ‘Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.’ Bamford stressed the point where it declares everyone has the right to participate freely in cultural life and enjoy it. That’s a good message for us today as educators because it implies not only accessibility but also enjoyment - it’s about a reaction of an individual’s experience. That’s a significant point.

Most Likely to Succeed reflects Article 27 in a profound way, which is why it was such an inspirational film. We should be all be inspired to rise from our seats and insist on transforming our educational system so our young people can participate, share, benefit, and most importantly, enjoy it. That is where the deeper learning occurs for both students, teachers, and consequently, community.

Julie Watson

Julie Watson is Co-founder of Little Green Pig, an educational arts charity in Brighton. She sits on the board of Brighton Youth Centre and is a consultant for educational, arts and digital organisations. She enjoys painting.

Take a look back at Our Future City's #BeCollective screening of 'Most Likely to Succeed' here.