Bamidele Isaac Itunu is a Professional Educator, an Education Officer, and a Social Change Enthusiast. His global exposures serve him well and have enabled his imprint on the global map of education pedagogy, instruction, and leadership. He has close to a decade of experience in education leadership, management, and policy execution. In seeking out his passion for providing access to equitable and quality education, he has reached thousands of kids in low-income communities in Nigeria. This passion has birthed the vision and mission of Giddy2School Education Initiative, where he works with diverse professionals over the world to remedy Nigeria’s out-of-school index.
Today’s problems are the cascading effects of yesterday’s solutions, and systems thinking is the philosophy that approves that everything is connected. It should be established in the footprints of our education policy that everyone should be a system thinker.
Education is said to be the most powerful tool to change the world, yet we seem to not have harnessed this tool to our collective advantage. Over 600 million children were enrolled in secondary schools around the world in the past decades. Around 90 percent of the world’s population had completed primary education in 2020, whereas, 66 percent had attained a secondary school education, excluding tertiary-level students. This validates that more than 86 percent of the world’s population has at one point or the other passed through formal education.
The statistics above unarguably poses the power education and educational systems hold in literally changing the world, and just by incorporating systems thinking into our curriculum we stand the chance to ring systemic change, and lead Positive Change Management, so far the right curriculum was taught. If every child that passes through the four walls of the classroom was exposed to the importance, integration, and inter-connectedness of “if and then” causal relationship of the universe, we would have developed more innovations in the world that are human-centered, inclusive, sustainable, and green, solving the many problems of our world today. The school would be a solution hub and an asset to the world. Every learner would be fully ready, and all hands would be on deck to solve immediate and future problems, with resilience and brim passion towards humanity’s continued thriving rather than just survival. It is not new that the youths are the future of any nation, the school must play an integral part in this ensuring that their potential is fully maximized.
In recent times, youths have been at the forefront of electric innovations and impacting giant strides in the world of innovation. There has been a great spike in youth leadership, involvement, and action because youths are now being exposed to system-thinking approaches to solving problems, but we need to do more. In the contemporary world today, a case study of every community of the world, 7 out of 10 young people are not interested in serving their communities, do not know what to do, how to do it, or the best practices to employ to lead positive change. Many do not have the network, experience, or exposure to make real changes. Hence, the need to start teaching systems thinking in schools.
Systems Thinking is a holistic approach to problem-solving that focuses on the way that whole-body parts interrelate and work together over time and within the context of an intended larger result. In nature, systems thinking ensures that elements such as water, soil, sun, plants, and animals work together to survive or perish. It is also the big concept behind the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The 17 SDGs are so fascinating to explore in that they, with different themes, and different focuses are extremely interconnected, and dependent on one another and must be understood as such.
For instance, SDG-4 is the code acronym for Quality Education. Aside from the fact that SDG-4 advocates for everyone everywhere to have access to equitable and quality education irrespective of race, religion, or socio-economic background, quality education remains an anchor to all 16 SDGs if we must achieve a full understanding of the SDGs and have optimum results. There has to be a sound engagement of quality teaching or education. Also, SDG-1 – NO POVERTY, is another good example of how parts make a whole. The cause-and-effect relationship between poverty and hunger is like 5&6. Why? This is because poverty is connected with low or no purchasing power, and economic and financial inadequacy, which in turn lead to a state of perpetual hunger.
The human body is a biological concept that explains this concept even better, and in a way that a layman can understand. The organization of life in Biology has four divisions; Cell, Tissue, Organ, and System. Please note, that the fourth level of organization is our end goal, because it is the functionality of the systems thinking here. But the system can never be achieved without the aggregation of similar cells which makes tissues, the aggregation of similar tissues which makes organs, and the aggregation of similar organs which makes a system. At this stage, let us imagine the human body without the organ of sight – the eyes, without the organ of reasoning – the brain, the respiratory organ – the lung, the liver, and finally the heart. I am certain that everyone is quite aware this type of system cannot be called a human system anymore but a cadaver.
This is what a system is. And how every sector in our society is made, from governance to production, to entrepreneurship, transport, businesses, economy, technology, education, community, health, and so on. Teaching systems thinking in schools will affect optimum awareness and efficiency in our values propositions, and consumption, of how to approach our various systems towards national and global development. The best leaders are typically systems thinkers, and we must onboard our formal and nonformal education to equip both the young and even the older generation on systems thinking approach in community engagements and problem-solving.
Incorporating Systems thinking in schools will benefit us in a lot of ways, first of all, it does the work of thinking overhaul and mind revamps which is necessary both in school, life, and in our respective communities. The benefits include young people; seeking to understand the bigger picture rather than seeking shortcuts to problem-solving, understanding patterns and trends in system knits, identifying cause-and-effect relationships, piloting and testing hypotheses, gathering and analyzing intended/unintended consequences, and providing sustainable solutions. This helps to designate individual responsibility and transit into collective actions.
People everywhere are a product of systems, either thriving or faulty systems, and in turn, make them garbage-in garbage-out the result of what they are exposed to. The world can be made a better place with the inclusion of design and systems thinking into the education system. Young people are an asset and can do so much, they just need to be trained right. To achieve this, there has to be a vibrant synergy between the sectors of Education policy, Education Leadership, the community, and the Government. This is a call to action, a call to collective responsibility, in Africa majorly, we need these interventions, we need more hands on deck, and more heart committed to our every development. We need to start teaching youth leadership, innovation, and problem-solving skills because our problems will not solve themselves. And because the school is where the introduction of this high-need curriculum is accessible to all young people, the school is where we must start.