THE BLOG
03/05/2014 02:37 pm ET Updated May 05, 2014

What Is Education For?

This weekend was dedicated to cinema. Friday, I watched the French version of the Academy Awards, also known as Les César. They were, of course, followed by the Oscars on Sunday. I was so surprised to see how many people were commenting, tweeting, complaining, vibrating during the shows. Those telling stories still rule our hearts. They talk to our emotions, they find the direct path to our soul. There is nothing more powerful or more capable of changing our perceptions. Sunday, we also learned that a genius French director, Alain Resnais, passed away and, again, reactions came from all over the world.

Maya Angelou famously wrote: "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Movies have this power, as do those making and bring them to life. We feel stories, we feel art. I've previously written here about how I truly believe and hope that the leaders of tomorrow will have more in common with artists. Looking at the world through the heart, and not only from the mind, does not mean you have no control over yourself or your emotions. It allows you to find new ideas and solutions, with a more creative mindset. Intuition, empathy, resilience, curiosity are imperative to face the challenges of tomorrow.

But it is hard when, since childhood, these behaviors were never encouraged and even likely inhibited. We all talk about innovation, often linking it to technology and science. You can have the most amazing tools in your hands, but without the right mindset nothing will happen. Or at least nothing new. We all feel that education has to be disrupted. It is not by pure coincidence that the most-watched TED talk is "How Schools Kill Creativity".

When I finished my studies, I knew how lucky I had been to have benefited from the most empowering institutions we have. But I also felt scared. I did not really know who I was, but sure that life would teach me the hard way. I was not sure my knowledge would help me when experience is what makes us. I knew I had learned a lot and was full of confidence that I was ready to take on the world. Two years later, I was crushed. I did not like my job, I felt that who I was and what I did was totally disconnected. And more than anything else, I was terrified of failure. I jumped from job to job, knowing that this resume "full of holes" as recruiters say, or not "really coherent," as the HR departments confirmed, will make my professional life even harder. But I did not have a choice. I wanted to experiment, to understand, to fail and try again. I started this process by myself at 25. My education was like a home without any windows. Comfortable, necessary, an opportunity, a luxury. But from there, it was so hard to see the world, to have an explorer's spirit and to find myself.

Maybe that is why Erica Goldson's graduation speech resonated so much with me. She was top of her class, the perfect pupil. But she wonders "While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker..."

If autonomy, experimentation and exploration would have been rewarded, probably her definition of "best" or "success" would have been totally different. Encouraging a less goal oriented mindset and less formatted thinking would have been made easier to break this mold and create innovative thinking. In a wonderful commencement speech, "What Is Education For", David Orr affirms :

The plain fact is that the planet does not need more "successful" people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every shape and form. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these needs have little to do with success as our culture has defined it.

We can see how a renewed education will impact our society of tomorrow. How it will shape different leaders, different priorities for our planet. The biggest challenges are already here: sustainability, inequality an interconnected world that redefines our ways of communicating. In a world so uncertain, so open, so exciting, we cannot prepare the young generation with the traditional methods, seated between four walls. Knowledge is key but anything we do is based on who we are. We are human beings before human doings.

During Les César last Friday, the winner for best documentary was the wonderful On The Way To School, a film that follows four kids heading to school in four corners of the globe. It reminds us of the power of education and how it changes your life when you have access to it. During the acceptance speech, the winner quoted Pierre Rabhi:

We always ask ourselves what world we will leave to our children. But we should also ask ourselves what kind of children we will leave to this world.

Education is not only about our future as individuals, but also as a member of the community. And by community, I am not talking about the ones related to boundaries drawn by history, but the one we belong to as habitants of a planet in danger. Educating should soon not only be about making a life, but protecting it.

But rethinking education does not mean we have to get rid of all the past or the traditional mathematics. Absolutely not, especially when we know that the coding movement is stronger than ever. It just means we have to let children and ourselves not forget that work and play are the same thing. That we cannot invent, create, imagine if we do not give ourselves permission.

85 percent of today's companies are actively searching for creative talent but can't find it. Creativity is not only needed for the jobs of tomorrow but to invent yours. In the U.S., 40 percent of the workforce will be freelancing in 2020. 60 percent of the best jobs in the next ten years have not been invented yet! Laura Seargeant Richardson, principal designer at Frog Design, explained :

In the future, economies won't be driven by financial capital or even the more narrowly focused scientific capital, but by play capital as well. I predict the countries that take play seriously, not only nurturing it in education and the workforce but also formalizing it as a national effort, will quickly rise in the world order. This is not Twister in the boardroom. Rather, it's what Jeremy Levy, a physics professor at the University of Pittsburgh, would call "a highly advanced form of play.

Learning the fear of failure that hinders us from opening the door to creativity can start very early. It starts the moment you become afraid to be who you are, the moment where fear becomes stronger than curiosity, the moment you believe people will laugh at you more than support you. Integrating a dimension of playfulness and of curiosity will developed the skills needed today and tomorrow. As Alvin Toffler said:

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. 

We need a generation comfortable outside of their comfort zone, resilient and curious about the world but also of others. Empathy in the classroom matters: Bill Drayton, the C.E.O. and Founder of Ashoka, sees empathy as "fundamental to creating a world of changemakers -- where citizens lead the solutions our society needs."

We already see what is happening when we do not nurture these fundamental skills such as creativity, curiosity, resilience and empathy. Everything we do not know becomes a threat. Fear is the fertilizer of hate and rejection.

The actual crisis is just a transition, you can feel it. You can fight metamorphosis as much as you want. But change is the only constant. Education, our common love, has to prepare us because the world is changing faster than ever.

The question is can we learn to keep up?