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  • Writer's pictureChloë Fraser

Transformative Learning: How META Redefines Excellence In the 21st-Century

Updated: May 20, 2021

In 2012, Charles Fadel and Bernie Trilling, authors of 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times, wrote the following: “The world has changed so fundamentally in the last few decades that the roles of learning and education in day-to-day living have also changed forever.” Flash forward to Bain & Company’s 2019 report on innovative education and career-connected learning, and there is still much to be done. The first lines of the paper read: “good jobs that provide an opportunity for well-paid and fulfilling careers” are plentiful, yet “there is a mismatch between the skills and experiences required to succeed in these good jobs and the capabilities we are developing in our students.”

Clearly, there is still a gap between where education is versus where it needs to be to adequately prepare students for 21st-century life. As a result, alternative schools like META strive to teach the transformative competencies that will help our learners meet the challenges looming ahead. To redefine excellence in this century, we must cast away the traditional school system and come up with new metrics for success. We need to ask better questions, like: Can you develop the critical thinking skills to make thoughtful arguments? Can you apply new thinking to old problems? Can you learn from others and contribute something of value to their lives, too?

At META, our learners have thoughtful answers to these questions, because we develop the three transformative competencies they need to thrive: creating new value, reconciling tensions, and taking responsibility. Through these competencies, we empower our students and inspire them to shape a world where wellbeing — theirs, other people’s, and the planet’s — is achievable.

1. Creating New Value

The head of the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills, Andreas Schleicher, argues that “educational success is no longer about reproducing content knowledge, but about extrapolating from what we know and applying that knowledge to novel situations.”

To teach creating new value as a transformative competency means empowering our students to apply new strategies to age-old global issues. It also inspires them to find creative solutions to future challenges linked with the UN’s sustainable development goals. For our learners, creating new values means learning how to innovate to shape better lives for themselves and for the communities they live in.


Our focus on creativity stems from the understanding that in this day and age, content learning is ubiquitous. Content-obsessed education models simply lose all their value when you can find data on Google in milliseconds. As teacher Sarah Brown Wessling notes, “without skills, students are left to memorize facts, recall details for worksheets, and relegate their educational experience to passivity.”

That’s why META instead challenges our students to create new value by solving wickedly complex, multidimensional issues. Ultimately, our curriculum embodies the fact that 21st-century solutions are not Googleable; they require creative and cross-sectoral thinking.

2. Reconciling Tensions

At META, we teach students to compare and contrast the differences between ideas, draw out affinities, and apply their analysis to real-life projects. In doing so, your child learns to think critically about the world around them, particularly the unique opinions and cultures we all hold.

META learners acquire a deeper understanding of opposing arguments because they put themselves in the shoes of various stakeholders — over and over, and over again. Our students then learn to use rhetorical devices to challenge their own beliefs as well as others’ positions intelligently.

But of course, reconciling tensions involves not just ideas but people! At META, ageless collaboration is at the heart of everything we do. In fact, we accustom our learners to work with adults, peers, and younger children alike on complex real-world problems. To empower our learners to recognize and address tensions, we also teach them how to give and receive constructive feedback. In reconciling tensions, META students ultimately learn to take into account the interconnections between different sectors, topics, and people.


3. Taking Responsibility

Learning to consider the results of your actions and take responsibility for them is a wonderful sign of maturity. To attain this, META students develop their ability to reflect upon and evaluate stakeholders’ actions in light of their own experiences, education, and by considering personal, ethical, and societal goals.

At META, we strive to move away from compliance-based education, and towards impact-driven education. And to focus on impact, in our view, means empowering our learners to take responsibility for their actions and for their learning. It means teaching students to interlink personal needs, community needs, and societal needs to projects they want to be held accountable for.

How does META achieve this? On the one hand, we offer our learners the global experiences that will help them cultivate a hands-on approach to multidimensional issues. On the other, we grant our students the freedom and independence they need to become self-motivated and impact-driven adults.

A Few Last Words

Ultimately, META Learning strives to redefine excellence in the 21st century through empowering local leaders with a creative, hands-on approach to multidimensional issues. That’s why our teaching is centered around three transformative competencies: creating new value for complex issues, reconciling tensions between ideas and people, and taking responsibility for their actions.

We firmly believe that transitioning into 21st-century adulthood with these competencies in hand enables our students to become the changemakers their universities, businesses, and communities will need.

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