Education needs innovation – Interview with Eunika Mercier-Laurent

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Dear Eunika, you are passionate about education, and quite dissatisfied with much that is happening in education today. Why is that?

Education is essential for the Future of people, nations and planet. Yet despite the ubiquitous technology in education now and experimentation of new pedagogical methods, the educational programs in Europe has not evolved much to adapt to today reality and prepare the future. Kids and students spend too much time at school/university to learn what they will not necessary need in the nearest future. Some innovative teachers take their pupils on excursions or bring history to life in other ways, but this is certainly not enough to understand new opportunities and how to explore them while at the same time taking all consequences into consideration. Schools follow the programme (the same for years) decided by Ministry of Education.

The average level is not satisfactory for gifted children and their talents are not explored enough, making them frustrated. The movement of people that goes hand in hand with  globalisation causes additional problems, pupils who are supposed to be at the same level based on their age and years of schooling are in reality often at very different stages of their learning journey.

Another challenge is that many students think that they are able to find themselves all needed information in Wikipedia or forums, learn from MOOCs. Many consider that their smartphone is an extension of their brain and progressively forgot thinking.

What are alternatives?

The alternatives may come from parents – though they are more and more busy working, from grand parents, friends, social fashions and special events such as innovation cafés or discovery of technologies or new professions. The EU programs Erasmus has introduced interesting aspects of acting in multicultural context and necessity of learning foreign languages. The most important teaching, however, remains learning how and what to learn, and the ability to solve problems, using knowledge and imagination in various contexts.

Curiosity helps acquiring specific knowledge; learning about and from nature should happen more, and we need to instil an ability to think globally, holistically and in systems in order to understand and solve complex problems. Such alternative way of thinking may help finding easy and cheap solutions with minimal environmental impact. While entrepreneurship is increasingly pushed at the university level, it should be introduced much earlier.

Despite many people betting on BabelFish, foreign languages should be introduced very early, through play, and preferably via immersion. Respect of the others and of nature should be also added, as should better knowledge of our body and nature which can help prevent diseases…

The best way to learn it is by playing and by doing with experienced people.

How to make them reality?

Because it is extremely difficult to get politicians in charge of educational programs to listen, we have to act in parallel. If each knowledge cultivator would at least teach or have a slot time for alternative activity in one school, a lot of progress could be made. Sure, we can act though MOOCs, web and robots; knowledge games and serious games may multiply different learning, but detection of talents still needs human interaction.

While not enough and but a drop in the ocean of needs, EU programmes such as “Education and skills: empowering Europe’s young innovators”, part of H2020 challenges CO-CREATION-01-2017 which offered 2,5 M€ for 3 years experimentation, are a good beginning.

What are your next (specific) steps?

While waiting for the new call for projects by the EU, I would love them to create more opportunities to prototype new ways of learning and teaching that are more efficient, attractive and suited to today challenges. Such ways would best be conceived in collaboration between teachers and parents – and pupils. An interesting example of learning by playing is kidzania park, though the games offered should be elaborated collaboratively and focus on knowledge rather than, as is currently the case, money.

For those who are interested to find out more I suggest the following:

  • Edward de Bono Future Positive, Chapter 17: Education, Pelikan Books, 1980
  • Eunika Mercier-Laurent “Innovation Ecosystems”, chapter 4 and Epilogue, Wiley 2011
  • Video: New Education

Eunika Mercier-Laurent is electronic engineer, PhD in computer science, expert in artificial intelligence, associate researcher with University Jean Moulin Lyon 3 and Professor of Knowledge & Innovation Management at EPITA and other engineering schools and universities.

After working as researcher in INRIA, computers designer and manager of innovative AI applications with Groupe Bull, she founded Global Innovation Strategies devoted to all aspects of Knowledge Innovation. Among her research topics are: Knowledge and Eco-innovation Management Systems, methods and techniques for innovation, knowledge modelling and processing, complex problem solving, sustainability, eco-design and multiple impacts of digital.

Among 100 world experts of Entovation Intl since 1996, she is President of Innovation3D, International Association for Global Innovation, chairman of IFIP WG on Knowledge Management, member of New Club of Paris, expert for EU programs and author of over hundred publications and books (Innovation Ecosystems, Innovation Biosphere and Intelligence in Energy). More on

March 2017

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