Looking at some of the science fiction novels & movies from the 1950’s gives you an interesting perspective of what people at that time thought the 21st century would be like. None of these stories predict the rise of the internet or the ubiquitous smartphone. However, a majority felt that we’d have flying cars and would have colonized other planets by now! Most of those old Sci-fi filmmakers & novelists made their predictions of the future based on projecting the development of the technologies available at that time. However, they could obviously not anticipate every development over the last few decades.
Similarly, people in the 22nd century may look back at the predictions we make about the future of education and laugh at us. However, the best we can do is to start with a couple of basic assumptions and project how current trends will develop over this century.
The first assumption is that the purpose of education will always be to develop children and adults into productive members of society. The second is that education needs to develop both the students’ emotional and intellectual capabilities to achieve that goal.
Current Global Trends
Let’s now turn our attention to the changes currently happening in society and try to predict how this will affect the next 100 years. The key trend is that human beings are living much longer. In the 19th century the average lifespan was around 45 years, in the 20th it reached 68 years, in this century people are expected to live up to 85 years of age. This means that people will be working much longer and are likely to have a range of jobs in a variety of industries over that time.
In addition, technology has taken over many routine jobs, like secretarial work, data entry operations or writing standard reports away from human beings. It’s likely these jobs may not exist in the future. The jobs that are likely to remain are non-routine ones, like in public relations or software programming, that require humans to use their creativity, judgement and experience to deal with a changing range of issues. The nature of these non-routine jobs will keep changing as technology advances. The outcome of the above is that people will need to keep learning new knowledge and skills throughout their lives to enable them to execute this changing range of non-routine jobs well. The sources they will use to learn will be a combination of structured knowledge through online & offline sources, inputs from colleagues and their own experiences. Hence, they need to develop the right personal capabilities within the formal education system to ensure they are able to learn well throughout their lives.
What Education Needs to Develop
In order to thrive in this volatile world of work, the education system needs to develop the following personal capabilities in young people:
- Learning and Innovation skills – These include creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration
- Life and Career skills – These include adaptability, social skills, cross cultural skills, self-initiative, productivity, responsibility and leadership
- Information, Media & Technology skills – This requires developing expertise in the latest developments in technology, media and information
In addition, along with the basic knowledge of languages, math, sciences, arts, history, geography and economics; young people also need to develop a deep understanding of entrepreneurship, health, environment and other cultures.
What Education May Look Like in the 22nd Century
Now that we’ve understood what the world of work may look like and what capabilities young people need to develop to succeed in it, let’s see what the education system of the future may look like adapt to this.
- End of Age Based Learning–Students develop at different rates, so why should they be put in the same classroom because they are the same age? Students can be grouped by mastery of specific topics instead. For example, a 10-year old student who shows a strong knowledge of math can sit with older students for advanced calculus classes instead of being slowed down in a class only comprising of other 10-year olds. The same student may not be as good at language, so can sit with younger students to enable her to learn comfortably at her own pace.
- Individual Learning Paths – In place of having standardized common exams, students can earn credentials that show their mastery of specific areas. A student could have a “Level 11 credential” in calculus and a “Level 8 credential in English literature”. This allows each student to create their own learning pathways as they accumulate advanced levels of badges depending on their personal interests. This process of earning credentials can continue lifelong as an adult can show a future employer their “Level 36 Credential in Python language programming” and keep adding advanced credentials as they progress in their career.
- Learning from Peers – Students will use their peers as a source of learning and not just their teachers through collaborating on projects and activities. The role of the teacher will shift from giving lectures to becoming a facilitator who learns along with the students and advances their discussions by asking questions.
- End of Fixed School Timings – Student learning can happen anytime through the day. They can learn new topics at home or outside the classroom through their smartphones. They will come at specific times to a physical class for collaborating with other students on projects and having discussions with facilitators.
- Collaboration Across Countries – With the advancement of translation software, language stops being a barrier. Students can collaborate online on projects and have discussions with students in other countries to get a range of perspectives. They can even project holograms of themselves to attend classes in other countries.
- Immersive Learning – Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality technology will enable students to use all senses to experience the lesson being taught instead of just reading about it. Imagine virtually swimming with whales to observe their behavior instead of getting dry facts from textbooks.
- Gamification – Learning through structured games is a great way to motivate students and enhance their understanding of a topic. For example, a student can play the role of the Mughal Emperor Akbar to fully understand the 2nd Battle of Panipat in a strategy game.
- Data Analytics to Track Learning – As students develop their personal capabilities and knowledge, data about their activities can be analyzed to enable them to understand their own strengths & weaknesses better to improve their learning outcomes. This helps the student take more responsibility over their own learning and builds a mindset that enables them to keep developing mastery over new areas lifelong.
The future could turn out to be very different from the picture outlined above. We could be living in a world where robots do all our work and we learn new knowledge by getting data downloaded onto chips lodged in our brains! However, whatever happens in the next 100 years, we will definitely not have the same education system that we see today.
The Article is written by Dr. Akhil Shahani, Managing Director, The Shahani Group.