The Big Idea: Education from the bottom up

2020 Education is a school-based initiative empowering young people aged 11-18 to articulate the challenges and opportunities for the world in 2020 and their own practical solutions, using film and social media. The aim is to engage pupils in thinking – and taking action – about major issues such as conservation, extremism, and fair trade. The best ideas, chosen by the students themselves, are then shared globally using film and social media. The project was initially proposed by Andrew Hadley who pulled a group of Fellows together to work on the project.

2020 Education, initially awarded RSA Catalyst funds in January 2012, shows how global issues can be tackled locally in practical ways. As Andrew says, "Our approach is bottom up, about participation and empowerment of young people. We need to help them make sense of the issues and articulate these to their peers as well as create and promote their own imaginative solutions. But the skills and experience they gain in the process are also what they need to get into the world of work. So 2020 Education links the future prospects of individuals with those of the planet".

Andrew and his team identified some of the most interesting school projects from around the country which engage pupils aged 11-18 on global themes of mutuality, sustainability and enterprise. They then created short films, which were presented at an event in Oxford on 26 June 2012. You can watch the films online. Projects included fair trade coffee, rare orchid propagation, beekeeping and raising awareness of children’s rights. The schools involved were encouraged to use social media to share ideas and develop new collaborations through peer education.

2020 education group

The event involved 11 UK schools (state, independent, primary, secondary) and a group from 4 countries of Southern Africa. The event, held at the Said Business School, Oxford, also attracted guests such as Dr James Martin, Rageh Omaar, Jasmine Whitbread, John Baugh, Mark Robinson (former MP), Sir Alec Reed, representatives of the RSA, Ashoka Foundation, Greenpower, the Prince’s Trust, and others. The Children’s Radio Foundation also joined the project as a partner, leading to a broadcast on the BBC World Service.

Reaction to the films and the Oxford event has been so positive, with many more schools expressing interest in joining the programme, that the team now have ambitious targets for rolling out the programme nationally and internationally over the next 7 years. “We believe creative ideas can come out of schools in Latin America, India and Africa just as much as from the UK,” said Andrew, “We’re keen to use the RSA’s international network to help us expand into those regions.”
2020 Education have now been awarded additional Catalyst funds to take their project further. They are aiming to hold a series of roadshows and engage 100 schools in the coming months, leading to a second showcase event next summer. Initially the focus is on schools in the UK, but links are also already being made internationally.

Andrew commented: “2020 Education is about adding value to classroom learning. We aim to recognise the brilliant projects some schools are already running, link them together, and inspire others to start their own, with the young people themselves leading the way. We are also very open to partnerships with other organisations.”

There are many ways RSA Fellows can get involved. The 2020 team are keen to hear from any Fellows with interests in education, social media (particularly in relation to schools), or willing to act as trainers or mentors. They will also welcome advice about marketing and fundraising. To begin with, the priority is to identify and contact schools which have set up innovative projects or which encourage creative approaches to learning beyond the classroom.

For further information about 2020 Education, contact Andrew Hadley.