What is 21st century learning, and what are the 21st century skills people will need? It is impossible to attend any education conference or exhibition without being bombarded by companies trying to sell their app, software or gizmo which will enhance 21st century learning. In the same way, conference speakers and workshop leaders can regale you with their lists of the skills that you simply must have. The implication being you don’t have them already and you should be worried. Equally, there never seems to be a speech delivered which does not make reference to the research suggesting that 70 per cent of future jobs have yet to be invented. For young people today trying to make their way in the world, none of this is inspiring. It really is not a confidence booster to be told that you do not have the necessary skills to get a job, nor that the job you aspire to no longer exists. In education systems, there is the doom-laden analysis that we have all failed to prepare students for the future. Often it is described as a Victorian system and method of delivery in the 21st century. Outdated, old-fashioned teaching where rote learning dominates, children sit in rows while the “sage on the stage” at the front of the class drones on incessantly, dictating notes. The argument is advanced that robots could teach classes, that there is no need to learn handwriting, spelling, maths, languages etc because Google has all the answers and Artificial Intelligence can do everything. Therefore, is there any need for buildings at all? At least, we could get rid of traditional classrooms and have open learning spaces. Like most debates, there is merit on both sides. There is no need to emphasise the acquisition of knowledge and facts when an encyclopaedia is on your smartphone. However, I would contend that we are de-skilling people by not teaching them the basic foundations in reading, writing and maths, or how to write a sentence or paragraph. The real emphasis has to be on how you apply the knowledge you have gained, coupled with your creativity and ideas, to solve practical problems. That is most clearly expressed in our school when I see how engaged, motivated and inspired young people are by pursuing the UN Global Goals or rising to the challenge from MIT to tackle pollution, for example. Since time began, these arguments have raged about the direction of education and its true purpose. For example, the dialogues of Socrates and Plato show their divided opinion: is it better to train children and give them the knowledge they need, or follow the heuristic method of drawing out from them what their talents are? The very word “education” is debated in terms of the roots of its meaning. Does it come from the Latin word to train, or the one meaning to lead or draw out from within? The truth is that both are valid and there needs to be a balance between them. In other words, some content or knowledge needs to be taught before concepts or ideas can be understood or created. By the same token, teachers love to see their pupils come up with their own ideas because they can be so fulfilling. For the future, we should place trust in our young people to have the ideas and skills for society to progress. In a world of constant change, the only skill we should teach is adaptability.