Knowledge gives people a range of options. Knowledge facilitates autonomous decision-making, meaning people can behave in a democratic, entrepreneurial or a socially responsible manner. However, knowledge is not a ready-made product absorbed by our brain until it can absorb no more. Acquiring knowledge is an individual process. It is an active, intrinsically motivated and continuous round of experimentation, experience, appraisal and reflection. And this all starts in earliest childhood. Both Maria Montessori and Albert Einstein described learning as a form of self-knowledge. Einstein said, “I do not teach my pupils anything; I only try to create conditions for them in which they can learn”. It is clear that the educational and research landscape familiar to us at present requires a complete overhaul if it is to facilitate independent learning, personal experience and self-empowerment. A communicative and multi-faceted environment is needed, which comprises multi-purpose areas for interaction and contemplation, networking between subjects, spaces and social issues and involving open participatory processes. So much for the theory, now for the facts: if we just take the buildings and staff into consideration, there is a huge investment backlog in education and research worldwide. The content and syllabus have often been neglected and have become increasingly outdated over recent years in many countries and in many circumstances. At the same time, on a global level, there is an unusually broad and open discourse about the significance of fact-based knowledge and the individual citizen’s social and ecological responsibility. This may or may not be down to the climate crisis or the pandemic, but our priorities and our scope for action are currently undergoing a rapid shift. What an opportunity to reinvent our knowledge landscapes! If we do not act now to make the most of the experience we have accumulated over recent years, when will ever improve the interdisciplinary, individual, social and sustainable aspects in actual and virtual places of learning and research?
Read the full issue