Filmed in nine different countries, 21:21 follows Patrick Newell as he guides classes of children from a variety of social and cultural backgrounds though a series of projects. Along the course of this journey we’re introduced to parents, teachers, and leading thinkers on education, who share their views on the state of education today, and specifically on the ways in which it is failing today’s children.
Importantly however, the film doesn’t dwell on the problems, but instead focuses on providing solutions. Having laid out the needs of today’s learners – for example the need to have an understanding of global issues at a local level, the need to be able to work collaboratively with people from a variety of backgrounds, and the ability to think for themselves – the movie provides concrete examples of this style of learning in action.
One of 21:21’s core themes is that of ‘Parents as the Primary Educators’. With children typically spending less than 20% of their time in schools, it only makes sense that parents actually play a far bigger role in their child’s learning – whether or not they are aware of that. The film shows how by being conscious of a child’s educational needs, parents can bring enormous value to their learning process through everyday activities.
Leading thinkers on education also contribute to the narrative. David Perkins, professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is damning in his commentary on traditional education systems, saying “90% of what we typically teach is a waste of time.” He goes on to explain that we need to be teaching children to deal with the unexpected, not with what is already known
Whilst there is much talk of the need to change education to meet the needs of today’s learners, there remains a great deal of fear and uncertainty amongst parents, teachers and administrators. The adoption of these practices and integration into existing learning and assessment systems, along with increased collaboration with parents, can at first glance seem somewhat daunting – but it needn’t be. Whilst some might argue that we’d need a revolution (and additional budgets) to see any significant change in global teaching methodologies, 21:21 demonstrates how it is possible to introduce relevant, engaging and compelling learning techniques without these.