Marine Hadengue, Ph.D, Research and Executive Director of Youth Talks

In the ever-evolving landscape of global education, certain individuals stand out as visionaries, tirelessly working to shape the trajectory of learning for the mid-21st century. Marine Hadengue, the Executive Director of the Higher Education for Good Foundation (HE4G), is undeniably one such luminary at the forefront of transformative educational initiatives.

At the helm of HE4G, a Swiss-based not-for-profit organization committed to revolutionizing curricula to align with the demands of the future, Marine spearheads the groundbreaking Youth Talks initiative. This unprecedented global youth consultation employs open-ended questions to engage young minds worldwide, leveraging advanced AI tools to analyze their responses. As a professor at SKEMA Business School, Marine’s expertise spans responsible management education, innovation, and social entrepreneurship, reflecting her multidisciplinary approach to the evolving educational paradigm.

An engineer by training, Marine’s academic journey includes a Ph.D. from Polytechnique Montreal, a master’s degree in political science from the University of Montreal, and postdoctoral studies at Polytechnique Paris. Beyond academia, she extends her influence as a member of the International Advisory Board of the Peter Drucker Society and serves as the CEO of the Arbour Foundation, a Canadian philanthropic organization dedicated to enhancing access to higher education.

In an exclusive conversation with Higher Education Digest, Marine Hadengue delves into the ongoing global shifts in education, offering insights into its future trajectory. Furthermore, she sheds light on the collaborative efforts between Youth Talks and the UN-supported initiative, Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME). The following excerpts from this enlightening dialogue encapsulate the essence of Marine’s perspectives on the dynamic landscape of education and the objectives that drive her impactful collaborations.

How have student expectations of the education system evolved in light of the ongoing global changes? Can you elaborate on any specific insights from the data that highlight students’ views on the integration of learning between formal education and life experiences?

In the course of the global Youth Talks consultation, which engaged young people aged 15-29 from diverse backgrounds to share their perspectives on critical issues, we were particularly struck by their responses on education. These responses revealed unexpected and profound insights into how young people view the evolution of education amidst ongoing global changes. Their expectations and aspirations, articulated with remarkable clarity and maturity, shed light not only on their immediate concerns but also on their long-term vision for a more integrated and responsive educational system. These insights have been instrumental in enhancing our understanding of youth aspirations and in considering educational approaches that are more aligned with their needs and expectations.

Student expectations of the education system have evolved in light of ongoing global changes, with a growing emphasis on common values as well as practical life skills. The data reveals that young Americans prioritize learning common values at school (20%) and in life (45%), suggesting a desire for a more ethical and value-based education system.

This shift in priorities indicates that students are seeking an integration of learning between formal education and life experiences. They recognize the importance of not only acquiring traditional academic knowledge but also developing interpersonal skills, empathy, respect, and open-mindedness, which are essential for navigating today’s complex world.

Moreover, young Americans express a strong interest in incorporating environmental protection topics and practical life skills, such as money management and understanding tax systems, into their education. This reflects a growing awareness of the need to address pressing global issues and develop practical skills necessary for everyday life.

The evolving expectations of young Americans indicate a profound shift driven by the transformative changes of our digital era. With the advent of the internet and revolutionary tools like ChatGPT, the landscape of knowledge acquisition and dissemination has been radically altered. This era, characterized by immediate access to information and, nowadays, sometimes to knowledge itself, necessitates a redefinition of the educator’s role. Teachers are no longer just conveyors of knowledge; they must become facilitators who guide young minds through our complex world, fostering critical thinking and adaptability. The transition from being a ‘sage on the stage’ to a ‘guide on the side’ encapsulates this essential transformation. Educators must urgently embrace this shift to maintain student engagement and relevance in the classroom. This new paradigm seeks to prepare students not just for academic success, but to navigate the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly evolving global landscape as informed, adaptable, and conscientious global citizens.

Key figures – Youth Talks – Q9 North America
The data suggests a blurring of lines between learning “at school” and “in life.” What implications might this have for the future of education?

The blurring of lines between learning “at school” and “in life” has significant implications for the future of education. This shift in perspective highlights the need for educational institutions to adapt and evolve in order to meet the changing expectations and priorities of students.

Holistic approach to education: As students seek a more integrated learning experience, schools and educators must adopt a holistic approach to education that combines traditional academic subjects with values, virtues, and practical life skills. This approach would foster well-rounded individuals who are not only knowledgeable but also emotionally intelligent, empathetic, and adaptable.

Collaboration between educational institutions and communities: The integration of learning between formal education and life experiences calls for stronger collaboration between educational institutions and communities. Schools can partner with local organizations, businesses, and experts to provide students with real-world experiences and opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills in practical settings.

Leveraging technology: The future of education will likely see an increased use of technology to facilitate the integration of learning between formal education and life experiences. Online platforms, digital resources, and virtual learning environments can help bridge the gap between classroom learning and real-world applications, making education more accessible, engaging, and relevant to students’ lives.

How can educational institutions adapt to this perceived shift in students’ perceptions of learning environments?

In addition to what has been said previously, it will be a long-lasting effort to give a clear and comprehensive picture of how educational institutions can adapt to these shifting perspectives. The goal of The Higher Education for Good Foundation (HE4G), the creator of the Youth Talks consultation is to develop a method that educational institutions will be able to use to transform their content and reconcile the vision we bring to the table with the Youth Talks consultation and other initiatives with their educational expertise.

The first thing I’d like to say is that to remain relevant and create leaders of tomorrow by giving young people both what they want and what they need, higher education institutions must adopt a more holistic approach to education. The class content they offer and the methods they use to teach must be imbued with the challenges of the 21st century and the expectations of young people, such as the topics seen in the consultation, like the demand to relearn common values. To better reflect young people’s aspirations, educational content can no longer just be additional modules within programs but rather the guiding principle of the programs.

The role of educators must also evolve. Current technologies, notably generative AI and unlimited access to knowledge, should lead us to reconsider our approach to teaching. Today’s professor is no longer just a teacher but rather a guide, a companion who helps students navigate knowledge, use it wisely, and develop critical thinking.

Could you share the objectives behind the collaboration between Youth Talks and the UN-supported initiative PRME? 

We are extremely excited about collaborating with Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME). This internationally renowned organization and our Foundation plan to work closely together to build a more sustainable and responsible vision of education. Our areas of focus and activities complement each other perfectly. While PRME aims to promote sustainability within classrooms by engaging business and management schools to equip future leaders with the necessary skills to balance economic, environmental, and social goals in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), our objective at the HE4G Foundation is to provide our partners, mainly universities and schools, with the resources needed to evolve their entire educational programs while fostering a “glocal” approach tailored to the specific context of each institution. These resources are aligned with PRME’s goal of promoting sustainability in classrooms and addressing the demands and expectations of young people gathered during the Youth Talks.

First, this collaboration will focus on research activities aimed at analyzing the data derived from Youth Talks, which will be used to meet the missions of both organizations regarding the transformation of education. PRME will also play a central role in defining the scope and questions for future editions of the Youth Talks consultation. Additionally, we are partnering to promote the voices of young people and expand the influence and impact potential of Youth Talks within international organizations, educational institutions, and among young people. Our aim is to encourage even greater participation of young individuals in the upcoming editions of the Youth Talks and ensure that numerous decision-makers around the world hear their voices.

In what ways does this partnership contribute to addressing the changing landscape of education on a global scale?

Our complementary expertise in sustainable development and program redesign will allow us to offer higher education institutions a comprehensive approach to help them meet the transformative needs of their curricula regarding sustainable development. This collaboration provides tools, resources, and support to institutions for their transformation. Through Youth Talks and the PRME collaboration, higher education institutions could benefit from invaluable insights into the worldwide’s youth aspirations and tools to adjust to current global challenges, including social, economic, and ecological issues as well as to address the necessity of enhancing the relevance of traditional educational structures in the emerging landscape of micro-credentials, digital learning, open access academic content, and continuous lifelong skill development.

Marine Hadengue at the PRME Global Forum in June 2023, on stage with Mette Morsing, Head of PRME and Anoushka Sinah, Y (1)
With institutions planning for the 2024-2025 school year, how crucial is the strategic use of remaining COVID-19 relief funding for shaping the future of education?

The results of the Youth Talks consultation reveal strikingly that young people worldwide, almost unanimously, are asking higher education institutions to refocus learning on common values, thereby fostering harmonious coexistence. This doesn’t imply that traditional fundamental disciplines have lost their importance, but the urgency to “rebuild society” seems to be the current priority for young people.

Three reasons underlie this shift in expectations from the youth: firstly, it appears that traditional places for learning human values such as family, community, and religion no longer fulfill their roles, leaving the youth feeling disoriented. Secondly, the rise of social networks has created new frames of reference for young people without addressing their need for belonging and establishing a shared framework of values. These networks even tend to increase feelings of isolation among young people. Lastly, the impact of COVID-19 cannot be underestimated, significantly contributing to feelings of isolation and confusion regarding belonging to a group or community. Although numerous funds were unlocked post-COVID-19 to support young people, especially for mental health initiatives, the link between education and isolation has been rarely addressed. However, the closure of institutions, the halt of social activities in the school setting, and remote learning have deeply affected the youth. The presently available funds could address this blind spot, particularly by supporting the restructuring of educational programs to better meet youth expectations, especially concerning the relearning of human values.

Are there specific areas where these funds could have a lasting impact on the student experience?

When we talk about restructuring higher education programs, we aim to transform the core essence of education by incorporating humanistic principles, where learning values become an integral part. It’s not just a matter of introducing modules on this topic; rather, it’s about making these values the central guiding force behind all teaching methods and content. It goes beyond simply imparting soft skills for a better resume; it’s a profound overhaul of education to adopt a more humanistic approach that nurtures personal growth, upholds human dignity, and promotes collective well-being. The education of the future must resonate with the ideals of humanistic management.

The crises we’re currently experiencing demand a fundamental reconsideration of how we structure ourselves—be it at the global political, societal, economic, or organizational level. The dominance of the economic system and the prevailing obstacles impede our approach to organization, thinking, and conducting business. Humanistic management is a contemporary theory that advocates for more effective organization by embedding the practice of human dignity and well-being into essential management systems.

Adopting a humanistic and holistic approach to education will be crucial in shaping a more sustainable future by equipping young people with the tools required to tackle the challenges of their era.

Marine Hadengue, CEO of the Higher Education For Good Foundation and director of Youth Talks, and her teams in a planning meeting for the foundation’s upcoming consultation and debate on ‘AI and Education, Youth Perceptions,’ scheduled for February 2024.
Could you shed light on how the collaboration with the Club of Rome aligns with the broader goals of Youth Talks and PRME? 

The Club of Rome, like the HE4G Foundation and PRME, is committed to transforming our current system to create sustainable futures. Our partnership will focus on in-depth analysis of Youth Talks data. We plan to co-write policy briefs based on this data, offering concrete recommendations to international decision-makers to initiate societal transformation, with a particular emphasis on education. Our goal is to learn from the aspirations and expectations of young people in order to define actionable paths that global leaders can implement. We aim to create new societal models that reflect the desires and expectations of the youth while keeping the wisdom and experience of experts and older generations integral to the process. This approach is not about discarding the insights of those with more experience, but rather about finding a harmonious balance where the voices of young people are given due consideration. By doing so, we ensure a diverse range of perspectives that enriches our societal evolution, honoring both the innovative spirit of youth and the invaluable legacy of experience.

Leveraging the international expertise of the Club of Rome, we aim to amplify the impact of Youth Talks and ensure that the voices of youth are heard at the highest levels of decision-making. This partnership aligns seamlessly with the continuity of the collaboration between the HE4G Foundation and PRME. It complements an initial ambition by contributing to research and the creation of actionable proposals for international decision-makers. By involving these three entities, our initiatives provide us with the opportunity to adopt a holistic approach to issues, addressing both the complex global concerns advocated by the Club of Rome, the management of education, the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and fostering a holistic and humanistic vision of education. All of this is informed by the data from Youth Talks. Thus, with the integration of the Club of Rome, we advance our thinking by incorporating education into a comprehensive approach to transformation, considering all the necessary dimensions for change.

In what ways does this collaboration contribute to a more sustainable and responsible approach to education?

The expertise of the Club of Rome complements that of the HE4G Foundation and PRME. Thanks to the work carried out by the Club of Rome and its international reputation, we have the opportunity to disseminate our findings and share the perspectives of young people with decision-makers, particularly electeds. By influencing policymakers who have the ability to transform our institutional models and enact laws that promote change, we can rally more organizations around our vision to transform higher education and embed sustainability at the core of teaching.

To achieve our goals and garner the support of as many institutions as possible by implementing the changes we advocate for, it is essential to persuade politicians to act now. Some institutions, like Youth Talks partners, are already convinced and ready to follow us, but others will require clear guidance, potentially in the form of laws, to make changes. This is why it is crucial to inform and persuade electeds, ensuring that the laws and decisions they make align with the insights from Youth Talks and the direction we advocate for. This will ensure that we effectively guide our education and societal models towards more sustainable futures, guaranteeing collective well-being.

Content Disclaimer

Related Articles