Education for the 21st Century: A Charter

Thank you to everyone who commented on the draft Education Charter (see 16 April post).

After four months of consultation and collaboration with RSA Fellows, other organisations, experts and schools we have finally finalised the charter which you can see below.

If you wish to sign up to the charter then please email me at and we will add your name to the mailing list for updates about the Education Campaign.

Please feel free to comment on this final version and let us know what you think!

Education for the 21st Century

The world is changing rapidly. The globalised economy creates opportunity, challenge and unpredictability. The great challenges of sustainability and the shifting demographics of our population will require new thinking, and collective action. As we increase our understanding of human intelligence and behaviour, we know more about how we can learn effectively, and the value of learning throughout life. Meanwhile, young people bring with them the expectation not just to sit and listen, but to participate, to interact, and to shape.

The last ten years have seen the standard in education improve, the quality of teachers at all levels get better, and investment in buildings, IT and resources. However, in our changing context the old models of education born of the industrial age make little sense. If we want to help our young people to become the adults they will need to be to thrive in the 21st century, we need not just to adapt, but to transform.

This Charter sets out the principles we believe should inform future development of education for young people, in which we include learning of all kinds, whether formal or informal, and whether offered by schools, colleges, universities, training organisations or elsewhere.

The Charter

It is the primary purpose of education to awaken a love of learning in young people, and give them the ability and desire to carry on learning throughout life

We need to recognise that education has many aims

Education must nurture creativity and capacity for independent and critical thought.

Young people should leave formal education equipped with the confidence, aptitude and skills they need for life and for work.

Education should help young people to understand how to be happy and to develop and maintain their own emotional, physical and mental well-being.

Every young person has the right to develop to their full potential

Ability comes in many forms and learners need to be supported to enjoy success no matter where their talents lie.

The educational success of learners should not depend on their background. Schools, communities and families must work together to close gaps in attainment.

The curriculum in schools and colleges should balance abstract and practical knowledge so that every learner can access high quality academic and vocational opportunities.

Education should engage the learner with exciting, relevant content and opportunities for learning through experience and by doing.

Education must be a partnership

Learners have a valuable role to play in contributing to the design of their own learning, and in shaping the way their learning environment operates.

The education of young people should be a partnership of schools, parents and the wider community in a local area.

Schools should be inclusive, creative communities which build tolerance, respect and empathy in young people.

We must trust our schools and education professionals

Every teacher should be a creative professional involved in the design of curricula and learning environments, and should be supported and developed to fulfil that role.

Every school should be different, every school innovative and we must find ways of holding them to account for their performance that rewards rather than stifles this creativity.


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4 responses to “Education for the 21st Century: A Charter

  1. edbooked

    One of the great difficulties with public education is the tendency for school administrators to subsitute politically motivated policies for sound principles of education. While your look to the future is laudable, checks and balances are needed to restrict, if not prevent, political interference in the education process. The real world of public education is discussed in the novel, The Twilight’s Last Gleaming On Public Education, which posseses many of the elements commonly found in just about every school system throughout the United States. It discusses the potential, challenges, and obstacles that currently litter the public education landscape. You may view a portion of this intriguing, socially relevant, and enlightening story online by contacting the publisher at, clicking on their Bookstore link, then Searching by title. Any charter concerned with the future quality of education in America must take into account the issues discussed in this fascinating story. Check it out for yourself, then discuss it with you friends and associates. Use the recommended solutions as a point of departure for further discussions regarding improved educational opportunities for today’s children.

  2. There are some wonderful ideas here. I wish you all the best going forward.

  3. Pingback: Podnosh Blog » Archive » RSA Education Charter on learning and creativity.

  4. “Every young person has the right to develop to their full potential”

    This is an admirable objective, but it is no more than a form of words without practical application. Where schools are often at a loss is in offering an adequate educational experience to young people with special difficulties: dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADD, Non-verbal Learning Difficulties etc. Many of such students are very able – but their learning styles tend to differ from the “norm” and their needs are thus rarely addressed.
    At university level, the DIUS provides a Disabled Students Allowance to help them cope with the rigors of tertiary education. But no such assistance is generally available at school level. One wonders how many school students fail to fulfill their potential simply because their difficulties and/or learning styles have gone unrecognized.

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