Recent trends regarding socio-economic changes encourage international organizations and researchers to devise new models of skills and abilities that children are expected to attain through school education. PISA literacy, key competencies, and 21st century skills are some examples of these skills and abilities, which should be accompanied by appropriate methods of instruction and measurement. In addition to these concepts, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (hereafter, OECD) defines ‘collaborative problem solving skills and competencies’ (hereafter, CPS) as a goal for PISA 2015 from the perspective of socio-economic changes that may occur by the year 2030 (OECD, 2013). CPS refers to the capacity of an individual to engage in a process whereby two or more persons attempt to solve a problem by sharing their understanding and pooling their knowledge, skills, and efforts (Ibid). As the premise of the project, OECD presupposes a change in the structures of industry and occupations, especially in the developed countries and regions of the world. The OECD foresees an increase in the ratio of occupations requiring high-level problem-solving skills, with a corresponding decrease in those requiring low and medium-low problem-solving skills. The PISA 2015 project expects both individuals and the society to be flexible and resilient to the imminent changes. Reflecting on the impact of the previous PISAs on nations and regions, the OECD predicts that the results of PISA 2015 might encourage nations and regions to consider revising both the curricula and the ways of instruction.
Revising the curriculum, bearing in mind the prospective socio-economic changes, would help children to cope with the demands of society. However, if children have to learn these skills during the normal course of their schooling, it would still categorise them into different social groups. On the one hand, if parents are trained in CPS, as mandatory requirements for their occupations, they can help children in acquiring these skills. On the other hand, children of parents who have not been trained in CPS will find it difficult to acquire these abilities. Ten years of common schooling will not help the latter type of children to bridge the gap caused by the cultural difference between such families (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim, 2006). To narrow this gap, there are at least two options. The first is to delegate leadership roles in society to professionals. However, this will again promote classification and stabilization of society, and bring about a decline in the creativity and resilience of society as a whole. The second option is to reconsider the idea of introducing CPS in school education: schooling must be compulsory to enter any profession and the existing curriculum revised to include CPS. This would help in children gaining equal access to these skills and competencies. This study critically reviews the structure and feasibility of the options.
To do this, we need to look at school education that is aimed at teaching children to find solutions to everyday issues that they come across in their local communities. J. Dewey investigated this form of teaching in his major work Democracy and Education published in 1916. (Dewey, 1916). However, it is difficult to apply Dewey’s concept to the current situation of each nation and region without considering the social conditions in the United States during the 1910s: the era of World War I, international peace, and a liberal democracy with welfare policies. It was an era that gave shape to a primitive structure of the modern society (Westbrook, 1991). Some studies in the early 21st century have applied Dewey’s idea to the current scenario (Biesta, 2009; Saito, 2009) while others have elicited implications for the 21st century (Feinberg, 1993; Hansen, 2012).
To investigate how this idea of fostering skills and abilities among members of a society emerged, we focus on a debate between J. Dewey and W. Lippmann. The debate was about who is responsible for setting rules in society and ensuring its maintenance: the public who constitute society or officials who represent the public and serve them. Lippmann feels that it is the responsibility of officials, as public servants, politicians, or lawyers maintain public order (Lippmann, 1925). Dewey argues against this and urges Lippmann to entrust the shaping of the democracy to the public (Dewey, 1927). He supposes that the transition from a great society to a great community is possible through communication among people. Though the debate was on politics and the ruling society, when it came to the issue of shaping skills and abilities of the public (Flamm, 2006), the question became one of education and learning.
In his work Democracy and Education, Dewey states that the best form education is to enable learners to live in the best possible manner. He developed a method called ‘problem solving learning’ for the coming generations. When this method is used to enable children to acquire knowledge and skills and to foster these abilities among the public, its full potential can be understood. Learning these concepts can transform society not only through its children, who become the future members, but also through adults who form the major part. Considering the transitions that have occurred in society over the past 100 years in all aspects, including education, it is clear that the current scenario needs CPS.
This study follows a logical order. First, it outlines the concepts of skills and ability and points out the current issues in the field of education and describes the social structure. Second, it focuses on the debate between Dewey and Lippmann. Next, considering Dewey’s works as texts, it reconsiders the concept of CPS. CPS can be attained by every member of a society. The conclusion is that these skills and competencies should be accessible to everyone to enable society to be resilient to unpredictable social and economic changes in the future.
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Feinberg, W. (1993). Dewey and Democracy at the Dawn of the Twenty-first Century, Educational Theory,43(2), 195-216.
Flamm, M. C. (2006). The Demanding Community: Politicizing of the Individual after Dewey, Education and Culture, 22(1), 35-54.
Hansen, D. (2012). John Dewey and Our Educational Prospect: A Critical Engagement with Dewey’s Democracy and Education, Albany: State University of New York Press.
Lippmann, W. (1993). The Phantom Public, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.
Saito, N. (2009). Reconstruction in Dewey’s Pragmatism: Home, Neighborhood, and Otherness, Education and Culture, 25(2), 101-114.
OECD, (2013). PISA 2015 Draft Collaborative Problem Solving Framework, PISA 2015 Draft Framework. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org (2015/12/31).
Westbrook, R. B. (1991). John Dewey and American Democracy, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.