A new path to education reform: playful learning promotes 21st-century skills in schools and beyond

Author(s): Hirsh-Pasek, Kathy; Hadani, Helen

Organisation(s): Brookings Institution

Date: 2020

Pages: 25 p.


The American education system is not preparing all children to thrive. Amidst a national movement to dismantle systemic racism, our schools risk propagating educational inequity by design. Only the most affluent students receive the highest quality education that emphasizes student agency and engagement through collaboration and inquiry. Many schools across the United States remain trapped in an outdated “horse and buggy” model of education, particularly when instructing students from under-resourced communities. Over the past several decades, we have attempted to repair the educational “buggy” through substantial reforms. These include passage of No Child Left Behind in 2002 and the development of the Common Core State Standards beginning in 2009. However, attempting to transform the industrial era “horse and buggy” model of education by incrementally adding new wheels and an upgraded engine is insufficient. Creating a revolutionary “Tesla” model of education is necessary for better attainment of 21st-century skills. The authors offer an evidence-based approach to education inspired by research from the science of learning addressing how children learn and what children need to learn to be successful in the 21st century. Critically, the implementation of this framework must be flexible and culturally-relevant, while maintaining core principles that foster educational equity for all students.

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