Anne Snick is an independent researcher with a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education from KU Leuven (Belgium). After ten years in academia, she engaged in fieldwork and action-research on gender, poverty, and social economy; she co-developed a methodological framework for transdisciplinary research engaging women in poverty as co-experts. She focuses on systemic drivers of societal crises and emerging alternatives. She wrote several peer-reviewed publications and launched a learner-driven innovation lab in Leuven. She currently works on the Erasmus+ project STEAM+. She is a Fellow of the World Academy of Art & Science and Associate member of the Club of Rome.
Turning education upside down. Preparing learners for the 21st Century
To characterise the 21st century, scientists use the term ‘Anthropocene.’ This concept signifies a geological epoch in which human activity decisively shapes Earth’s geochemical processes, mainly driven by the Western industrial-economic system and its underlying cultural values. This system is based upon a worldview separating humanity from the rest of life and treating nature as a resource for unlimited exploitation in pursuit of human comfort and wealth. Since many centuries, this separatist and mechanistic worldview has been the dominant paradigm for research and education. The structuring of universities in disconnected specialisms and the rationalist approach to teaching reflects this ideology. Today, the exploitation of nature exceeds Earth’s carrying capacity and may well herald the collapse of humankind; moreover, the capitalist system cannot guarantee a quality life for all humans. The European Green Deal and the UN Global Agenda 2030 call for a radical and system-wide shift, embracing different values.
For centuries, education has been instrumental in reproducing and accelerating the extractive, mechanistic model, framing it as human ‘progress’ while undermining the prospects of future generations and violently suppressing cultures that treat nature with respect. Education today must help societal actors to ‘unlearn’ entrenched beliefs and practices, and allow them to adapt their behaviour to the reality of the planet. Mankind must (again) become a key species tending to the regeneration of natural ecosystems and the well-being of human communities. That requires a thorough and urgent redesign of education, radically shifting its trusted values and practices.
This lecture uses systems thinking and process ecology to explore pathways for innovating higher and postgraduate education. Firstly, it offers a theoretical framework to understand what needs to change. Secondly, it critically analyses existing attempts at sustainable education. In conclusion, it offers a practical perspective on a new approach to talent development.