The Blend Show – EP001 – The Education System Needs to Change

Tom Payani  00:25

Today we’re going to talk about the education system in general, aren’t we and why it needs to change?

Brendan Cox  00:36

Yeah. And sort of from both of our sides. Yours in education, and mine in design.

Tom Payani  00:42

Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot, there’s a lot to talk about here. And really this for us, this point, or this topic underpins everything to do with why we started blend, and what we want to do in the future with Blend. 

And it’s really sort of close to us in terms of a topic we we care about. And like you said, especially as my backgrounds in education, I’ve got very strong feelings about why the education system globally and in general, needs to change. I remember our first conversation that sort of led to the start of blend really, about soft skills, the emotional intelligence app, do you remember that?

Brendan Cox  01:29

Yeah, yeah, I remember, because I think we’d sort of overlapped a lot on self development stuff. And we both sort of had an interest in that. And I think it was because not only it is interesting, it was something that we both lacked school. 

And I think we noticed the lack of things like everything from like public speaking to confidence to that kind of stuff. And I think we realised it would actually be quite cool to have something that filled that gap, not just for kind of our own satisfaction, but actually could help a lot of people.

Tom Payani  02:04

Definitely, definitely, I think the education system in general hasn’t been updated or adapted for a long time. And it’s, you know, let’s be honest, it’s not fit for purpose anymore. And the way the world changed the society we live in now, as students, young people are coming out of that system, basically unprepared, especially when you’re talking about, you know, soft skills, emotional intelligence, and coming from a teacher’s perspective, you know, which I used to do, we have such a narrow definition in a classroom of what intelligence is, and I’m not blaming teachers there. 

But this is just the system. You know, this is the system that’s set up for pretty much academic intelligence, and that’s it. And if do not have academic intelligence, then you’re not smart, and of course, that’s just totally not true.

Brendan Cox  02:55

Yeah, I think that actually, there’s a good interview with Scott Galloway who is a well known teacher in the US on CNN. And he talks about, basically how COVID is kind of slapping education around the face, and making it quite clear that it’s got to change because it’s one of the few industries that’s got like, it’s been like a crazy amount of time that has not been updated. 

In terms of profit margin, as well. It’s like in America, even compared to the UK, where it’s expensive to go to uni, but in America it is insane the amount of debt that you can get into, and the fact it’s literally with that kind of markup, it’s not changed, there wouldn’t be much visible difference between a uni classroom from now as it was from sort of 70 years ago. So there’s definitely a lot, we can link to the interview as in it he says a lot more succinctly than me. We can link to it in the notes…

Tom Payani  04:00

What’s his general point then? What’s he sort of basically saying?

Brendan Cox  04:04

Well, that the educational model hasn’t changed in like 70 years. And it’s got one of the highest markups in terms of like, their profit margin for education is incredible. It’s literally the highest along with things like medicine and stuff like that, but actually hasn’t developed at all. Whereas other industries have. And I think that with COVID and things has obviously made it quite clear because no one can go to school suddenly, everyone’s having to be homeschooled. There’s literally nothing in place to cope with that.

Tom Payani  04:44

Yeah this was a massive catalyst for us wasn’t it? To try and make one of blends key objectives to become part of that eLearning world because we saw what COVID was doing to students education and what it’s doing to the workplace in general. 

And how things are becoming digitalized and how, you know, the offering that schools and educational institutions have remotely, digitally, during this COVID time. They weren’t ready. Yeah. And you know, talking about how the education system hasn’t been updated. I remember in the classroom, we’re testing kids, basically on memorization or standardised testing. 

You know, why does a kid need to memorise the day of a war when you’ve got Google? I remember one good example I had, when I was a teacher, I was teaching Business Studies and economics, and this class was a really difficult class, and a lot of teachers had problems with them. They were about 15-16 years old. They weren’t motivated, they weren’t motivated by the business studies curriculum, they weren’t interested in it, a lot the curriculum wasn’t relevant for them, and would not help them in their real lives. 

And I remember I had a fantastic head teacher at the time. And I spoke to her. And I said, is it possible if get through this curriculum and I teach what I need to teach that if I can create some time in the schedule, some time in the term, that I can do something related to the subject, but off curriculum, and she was, she was really encouraging. 

And she really supported me, which wouldn’t have happened in every school. And I remember, I got through the curriculum as quickly as I could, you know, had a couple of months to three months left. Because this curriculum was box ticking. And once I got through this curriculum, I basically said to the students, let’s start a business, and let’s apply it to the real world. And let’s do it now. And we had a budget, and I made these kids go to the bank, speak to the bank manager, write the business plan. 

And all of a sudden, the kid before who was you know, completely disengaged, by learning, sort of certain business theory that they thought would have no use for them, all of a sudden, they’re having to make a phone call to the bank manager, or draw up a business plan or a marketing plan. And yeah, I knew this was more useful, because, to this day, I know that a large, you know, a significant percentage of those kids, they’re now young adults, and they run their own businesses. And that’s the point, isn’t it?

Brendan Cox  07:36

Well, I mean, in reflection, I am an absolute mirror of that, when I did Art University, they gave us virtually no business classes. So I mean, I went into the design from fine art. And I didn’t know how to quote, I didn’t know how to price myself, I didn’t know how to negotiate. I wasn’t taught. So, I mean, this is where it needs to kind of change. And that was only like, 10 years ago.

Tom Payani  08:14

I mean, how did you find, like the motion design industry, for example, in terms of being prepared for that from school?

Brendan Cox  08:23

Well, it didn’t exist when I started, I was interested in animation from an early age, but was told that you could only really get to it through going doing fine art, and then going to the Royal College of Arts, which is obviously a tad competitive in London. 

And so I just wrote it off. And it was only later, during my career that I realised I could do animation, as an actual job. And the only thing I could find to do was YouTube videos. And the kind of as a sign of the, like, the things to come. And there was there was a large number of what there was a number of motion designers, but it was more of a niche. 

Then suddenly, there was the introduction of the School of motion, which basically was an eLearning school set up by a load of motion design professionals. And they had really good quality eLearning classes where you basically follow them along with the teacher, you had like live critique. And then basically, but you could do the videos in your own time at your own speed kind of thing. 

It completely changed our industry. And so in the last 10 years motion design has gone from something that people don’t really know what it is to being wildly popular to the point where actually even normal schools have started teaching aspects of it. And this is because it was just made way more accessible way more practical, way more kind of relevant, really. And I think that a lot of industries are going to change in the same way where there’s with COVID people are taking the chance on different ways of teaching things and the ones that are more practical, the ones that are more realistic. 

The stuff that’s more engaging is the stuff that’s really going to stand out. And that’s how that’s the way forward, I reckon.

Tom Payani  10:09

Yeah, and I mean, also, what people expect in eLearning is changing. People want interactivity. People want something that they feel is relevant that they can apply immediately to the real world. But and you see a lot of people in the space, whether it’s someone like Chris Doe, in design, or wherever, even someone like Harry Mack, who’s like a freestyle rapper, these guys, they get massive followings. 

They have massive tribes. And a big part of what they do is they offer they teach, they teach as well. And the way they teach is just super practical. And this is what people expect now, and they want to go off and they want to use these tools in the real world as soon as possible.

Brendan Cox  10:49

Yeah, I think the thing is, is that people would expect more value. Now, there’s none of this sort of drip feeding information, kind of being cagey about it, basically, like holding on to knowledge rather than just giving it away. And I think that’s the thing is that, definitely, the new generation is like expecting value from the word go. 

And if it doesn’t catch your attention is gone. Because I mean, you you can’t see the wood for the trees now in terms of like access. I mean, like we didn’t, we were school, we didn’t have smartphones, YouTube, any of that. And it’s like, now, a five year old can learn how to code using like, cool, kind of like eLearning software. So I mean, you’ve got to catch up really?

Tom Payani  11:33

Yeah, definitely. I mean, yeah, I see sort of dividing into two, you’ve got the the non institutionalised education system, the things we’re talking about here, people teaching themselves stuff through mentors, or these teachers that we’re talking about, and you’ve got school. 

Yeah, and I think schools and education institutions need to need to catch up. And they’re making some critical mistakes. And for me, I this is just a personal opinion. But I remember, I don’t know what you think about this. But I remember when I was at school, by the time I’m 16, I have to choose, you know, certain subjects to take for my my a levels in the UK. And then by the time I’m 18, I need to decide what degree I want to do, which, in effect is deciding what career I want to do.

I mean, I’m still an idiot, but I was even more of an idiot. And, you know, how can someone know how can someone know what they do for the rest of their life at that age? And on top of that, you have got this massive financial outlay on this decision.

Brendan Cox  12:47

Well, I mean, I absolutely loved my teachers at school. But what I was being taught was irrelevant most of the time. So it’s like, I had no idea. I wasn’t interested in it, apart from things like art. And I couldn’t see the point of the academic subjects. And because it didn’t come into the art side of it. So I did my work experience. 

And basically, the only thing that I could do that was remotely design based, was working in a civil engineers. So I basically just did photocopying for two weeks. And I’ve came out of it going well, okay, if this is the only option for me, I’m just going to go down the fine art route where there’s absolutely no kind of guide to it. 

You just kind of wing it, see what happens at uni. And so I ended up doing that, and I ended up doing jewellery, and silversmithing, because I did an evening class in metalwork. And it was about the closest thing I could find that was sort of mechanically minded and sticking bits of metal together like Lego, which is what I would like, always liked. And, yes, I mean, I just went completely around the houses. 

And ironically, now we’re doing gamification, animation design. And I’d spent actually, most of my spare time in school, drawing, playing computer games, drawing up maps, and writing stories, and filming short horror films, all this kind of stuff actually. Now ties all together. But school, it was like, go be an engineer. So yes, yeah. The choosing thing is major problem.

Tom Payani  14:20

Do you think that these issues in terms of the educational system can be fixed, because it’s your hot housing kids, you’re making kids, you’re teaching for grades. You’re teaching to make sure a kid gets this grade because the school needs to have a certain position in the league table. So they get the intake that they need, and the parents are impressed. And they go to the right universities and they go on to the right courses, and universities are a business. They’re relying on getting in as many students as possible to make their money can we talking about this alternative? 

This happened outside of the classroom and people teaching themselves and eLearning, you know, evolving quite quickly outside of the classroom, but in a more formal environment, do you think it’s even possible for for for the changes we need to happen?

Brendan Cox  15:13

I think it’s put on, we think about it, how many colleges there were, like Technical Colleges is almost seen as you go to a technical college rather than University. And it’s frowned upon. But actually, they’re innovating a lot quicker in terms of the reactions, things, well, maybe you can learn motion design at a Technical College. 

But a university, they might not have that. So I think like, depending on how established or established but like how kind of ingrained in the traditional sense they are, in the way they do it, they’re going to be more or less reactive to everything. And I think that like some schools are just going to die. 

Because they’re basically that they just don’t change at all, when there’s going to be better options coming up. Some schools are going to go with it. I mean, a lot of the American colleges and unions are basically teaming up with businesses. So they’re building an aspect of like, doing an apprenticeships and like funnelling people into big business. 

I think that’s going to be a new model for the higher end stuff. The problem is, is that you’ve got lower end schools, for less advantaged people, the where they’re not going to have the resources for that, and that it’s going to be tricky. And they’re going to be kind of given less help than everybody else. So yeah, that’s kind of something to address.

Tom Payani  16:37

Because it’s a systemic issue, isn’t it, and the changes need to come from governments, you know, and they need to affect state schools. So all students have the same opportunities. Rather than a private school with a big budget who can team up with startups or certain certain businesses, this is going to be the problem, because there are a lot of schools out there private schools that are wealthy, and they are progressive, and they are doing interesting things. But obviously, there’s only a certain demographic of students that can afford to go there.

Brendan Cox  17:07

Yeah, I mean, I think that’s the thing, because if you end up having to if they decide they want to do they want to do blended learning and things like that, then they have to compromise because their budgets just not big enough, and they have to cut something else. 

Suddenly they’re not taught how to cook. They’re not taught how they’re not given like PE lessons, or something like that. And I think that basically, cutting off the nose to spite the face isn’t a good way to do either. And I think they need to do they need to introduce it in a way where it makes less work for teachers, then, oh, there’s an extra thing you’ve got to do that makes it harder.

Tom Payani  17:39

Yeah. I mean, I think this is the point like, I am 100%, like on the side of teachers here, a state school head teacher, I couldn’t think of many jobs that are that are much more difficult than that. And I totally appreciate the the plates they need to keep spinning at the same time. 

And it’s not easy by any means. And in no way is anything I’m saying a criticism of them. And I just think systemically there’s a problem. But there are examples of state systems that are trying to change this. I mean, Finland does comes up as an example. And they’ve done certain things that have made tangible differences. 

Simple things, common sense things. kids start at an older age seven. Yeah. Which for me, makes complete sense. Yeah. Three four year olds going to school is personally I don’t, I’m not sure how much value that adds.

Brendan Cox  18:39

Part of me wonders that about the things that like they say about life experience where you get, like kids that get taken off around the world on a trip before they go to school or have a gap year and stuff. I really do wonder if starting at seven means that they’ve got so much more kind of soft skill development, that actually they’re not kind of trying to learn that while in the middle of learning academic stuff as well.

Tom Payani  19:02

Yeah. And on top of that, these kids, they also have shorter school days, you know, so their life is not focused around, you know, going to school, doing all these lessons from a very young age, then going home and doing loads of homework. 

There’s less homework in the Finnish system as well. You know, that basically, these kids are allowed to be kids. That’s the point. The way these teachers teach, is it’s about cooperation is project based learning. It’s standardised testing. And, and all these things, you know, how to create more more rounded individuals, don’t they?

Brendan Cox  19:39

Well, I think that’s the thing is this is you’re learning the way that you would apply what you’ve learned. It’s completely relevant to what you’re going to be using it for. I think just no one actually spends their adult life being paid to do tests. This way, if you think about it that way, it’s just like bonkers. You should just be like you learn to be, you learn to be like a technical job like a plumber or electrician, by practising doing electronics and plumbing.

Tom Payani  20:12

I mean one other thing as well, which, which sounds pretty obvious. But in Finland, teachers are paid really well. Yeah, the profession is respected. Yeah. And if you look at countries like the US, or the UK, there’s some amazing teachers. And there’s some horrendous teachers, because, and I’m saying this first-hand, I was a teacher, and it’s a relatively low barrier of entry. 

So you’ve got people who are doing it, because maybe they’re not sure what they want to do, or they’ve fallen into it. And you’ve got some certain other teachers that’s all they want it to be. And they’re really passionate about it, and they really care about it. And they know it’s a profession that matters, and they can make a difference. 

But there’s a big scope for difference there. You know, whereas in Finland it’s tough, it’s not easy to be a teacher because you compensated appropriately, and in line with other very well paid jobs in that country. But I mean, I don’t know, mate, what what do you think? What’s the future of education? What do you think is gonna look like post COVID? Or in the next few years? Or is it gonna be like black mirror? Or can you be more positive?

Brendan Cox  21:23

I think, basically a happy Black Mirror. So like, I think that basically, the amount of blending of elearning with traditional face to face learning is going to be on a sliding scale based on budgets and technology and accessibility. 

State schools are going to be unfortunately bottom of it. And it will drip feed from the top down basically, like all technology and kind of changes and stuff, people with the most the most money and the the best support, generally get it first. And then bit by bit, but I mean, COVID is an accelerant. 

Let’s be honest, a lot of schools wouldn’t have changed very quickly at all. Unless suddenly, all of their all of their students can’t turn up. And their parents are like, why am I paying you to come to this school? And so I think, I think that one of the good things that come is gonna come out COVID is that basically all schools and not going to be able to ignore the kind of elephant in the room on this? So I guess, I guess we kind of see, but I mean, your more your bad place to kind of.

Tom Payani  22:38

I think my opinion, there’s a difference between what I think’s going to happen and what I want to happen. Still education is the thing I care about, from a professional sense. And I want to work in that world in some way, shape, or form. That blend for me is an opportunity to create elearning that I think, is useful and more interactive to people. 

But also, for me, the most important thing is access. And I think technology is inherently not good or bad, in my opinion, is what it’s how you use it. And for us, this idea that we called relay and this sort of Duolingo for soft skills or emotional intelligence. The point of that is it’s almost like this pick and mix, education that people can choose things that they want to improve on, that they want to grow with things that are more relevant to their lives, and can help them in a more practical way. 

And it’s accessible for everybody. Why do you think Duolingo became so popular because it just need the app. That’s available all around the world. It’s free. People weren’t able to learn languages, you know, that easily before?

Brendan Cox  24:03

I think the thing is, is that basically, humans have a tendency to swing the pendulum out as soon as something happens to react in an opposite way. And so suddenly, they’re going to be loads of like, schools go, right? Everything’s got to be elearning. Now, and humans have a nasty habit of this. 

And it takes ages for like to get balanced in the middle. And I think that’s key. So like, it doesn’t have to be like super complicated. It could be as simple as little things like blended elements of elearning that basically take a standard class like maths, or physics or chemistry or something like that, and apply it to real world stuff in a really easy way that the kids can do outside of the classroom is kind of gamified and it’s got balance, and it’s not overly complicated. 

It’s just sort of, it’s got you good UX, it kind of it sort of is engaging without being complicated, all these kind of things and I think that’s definitely Definitely what’s gonna kind of be the best, best direction to go in.

Tom Payani  25:04

I agree. And bottom line is, how do you motivate someone to learn something? Well, they want to know why they’re learning it. And the first step is to get away from from these situations, you have informal education where kids have no idea why they’re learning something fast, because they are just told, you need to know this.

Brendan Cox  25:23

Yeah. Because I said so!  You’re like, okay, thanks.

Tom Payani  25:28

If it has some sort of practical application, if it has some relevance to their life, if they can use it in some way, if they know why they’re learning it, or if you can relate it to something they’re interested in,

Brendan Cox  25:42

I live in France. I live in Paris, and my partner’s French. It’s like if I’d known that I could have spoken to people from around the world. And, like, find a partner, who is French. I live in Paris, because I was better at French, I might have paid more attention. But they just when you’re learning a language, pick one. And you’re like, Okay,

Tom Payani  26:06

Absolutely. And, you know, this is where it comes back to your point of what you’re saying, kids, having a more global perspective. When you go travelling opens your your mind, doesn’t it? and education needs to be sort of thought of in the same way as that how it’s about emotional intelligence as much as hard skills. That’s absolutely key. And again, it comes to accessibility to technologies available to help these kids, then that is the key for me. And I think it’s gonna happen. I think the future of education, that change is firstly going to come from outside apps, through companies through technology, rather than local educational authorities or governments.

Brendan Cox  26:49

Yeah, I think there’s gonna have to be a lot of stats and proof and kind of results from the risk taking parts of the industries that like tech, and startups and entrepreneurs and all this kind of stuff. And then once the kind of the results literally can’t be denied, then it will start to trickle into kind of formal education.

Tom Payani  27:12

Absolutely. Brendan, it’s been a pleasure to talk to you as always.

Brendan Cox  27:17

I think we can definitely dip into some of these subjects a bit more in other podcast episodes. Yeah, I think there’s quite a lot. I think we’re I’m definitely up for digging more into the technology side of it, the innovation side of it, we can go into the storytelling aspect, because I think that’s something that appeals to both of us and yeah, we can, it’s gonna be good.

Tom Payani  27:38

Brilliant. I will talk to you soon, my friend.

Brendan Cox  27:41


Tom Payani  27:50

Thank you for listening to the blend podcast. You can find us at, Spotify, Apple, Google, and LinkedIn. See you next time.

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