The education industry is booming and in the U.S alone education is a multi-trillion dollar industry. For centuries, people have recognised the importance of education as a key component to success and driving change within society. Now with emerging technologies and disruption occurring at an exponential rate, the education industry is seeing a drastic change.

One reason behind the education boom is due to the rise of more children receiving an education globally. Today, over 90% of children in developing countries receive a degree. This rise has also seen tertiary education increasing, with nearly 210 million students obtaining higher education in 2014 compared to a little over 30 million 40 years ago.

Education is a high priority for most countries. One of the top goals for UNESCO member states is to spend at least 15% of their annual GDP on education. This is a significant investment as each day, the world’s population grows about 200,000.

The surge in investment in education and the world’s population growth have required constant innovation from the education industry to devise new scalable and sustainable models in an ever-changing world.

The fourth Industrial Revolution

Today, technology is transforming the way we live, work, play, and think. From Artificial Intelligence (AI) to machine learning, to the Blockchain, technology is becoming more sophisticated and poised to advance the human potential — and it all starts with education.

But if we take a look back, the birth of formal education took place around the first Industrial Revolution. Back then, students were taught primarily to create an obedient and efficient workforce. Education was about memorisation and applying information to well-defined, known problems. Today, we are currently experiencing the fourth Industrial Revolution. The previous model of education simply isn’t sufficient in today’s ever-evolving and demanding workforce.  

Research suggests that 40% of Australian jobs are likely to become automated; meaning some technical skills once valued will become redundant with upcoming technology. A report from The Future of Work has stated that skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity will become a must, and are crucial for the future of individuals and companies.

Online learning is the future

For the modern education system to be successful, it’s crucial to understand what’s important for students to learn in order to create a prosperous and career-ready workforce.  

According to Peter Diamandis, Founder of Singularity University, here are five guiding principles in educating for the future:

  • Passion: Encouraging students to identify their purpose in life.
  • Curiosity: With digital natives being exposed to machines and massive data from a very young age, harnessing and developing the youth’s innate curiosity for exploration and experimentation is vital.
  • Imagination: the importance of students understanding the necessity of imagination.
  • Critical thinking: The rise of misinformation, “fake news”, conflicting ideas mean young people should be equipped with critical thinking to navigate this new world of information.
  • Grit: The importance of teaching students the art of perseverance and pursuing long-term goals.

After understanding that skills around technology, creativity, and problem-solving are what needs to be taught to our next generation, the next question to ask is — how?

How do we shift away from traditional education practices that have been around for decades, if not centuries?

One of the answers is online learning. Countries such as the United States are making great strides in allowing students to acquire college credits without needing to physically be in the classrooms. And the students are reaping the rewards.

To demonstrate how this is possible, here are some advantages of online learning:

  • Made for digital natives: Online courses or classrooms can be studied anytime, anywhere, and students of today are adept at learning from a screen instead of traditional models where the teacher is in front of the classroom.
  • Encourages working at one’s own pace: Students can learn information however quickly or slowly they need.
  • Encourages interaction: All students, whether they’re extroverted or otherwise, tend to weigh in more on digital discussions than discussions in person.
  • Scalability and flexibility: One physical classroom can only accommodate so many students, but with online courses, this isn’t an issue. Taking specific classes only on set schedules is no longer a problem either, with online courses being available year-round and at whatever time suits the student.
  • More cost-effective: Online diminishes financial barriers and improves the economies of scale for students to enrol in higher education. Online courses are also less expensive for schools to design and develop.

With the data-driven era of today, we have access to unlimited information at our fingertips. A simple Google search gives us access to an abundance of information within a split second. As such, online learning is one platform that enables students to take the information they need at their own pace.

Thus memorisation and regurgitation of information through standardised tests from traditional education are no longer a sufficient measure of knowledge and intelligence. Nor is recalling information adequately equipping students with the tools and ability to solve problems in today’s complex environment.

With imparting facts-based knowledge no longer a necessity, how do we teach?

New ways to educate

According to Katie Puckett from The Possible, work “will be structured around projects, not processes”, and this is also true of education.

From simply imparting knowledge to memorise, education is now ‘problem-based’, or ‘active’ — giving students problems to solve, encouraging active involvement in their education. Developing new methods to engage students with the acquisition and retention of the right information is much more successful than the traditional education system.

We’re also seeing the boundaries of curriculum beginning to change. Previously, knowledge was divided by subject. We’re now evolving into more topic-based and holistic approaches that include real-world use and application. This learning approach emphasises communication, critical thinking, and creativity— all crucial skills for the future of our workforce.

In traditional education, the teacher is the “sage on the stage”. The dawn of newer models have made teachers the “guide on the side”, but this role is also expanding and changing into “meddler in the middle”, according to educator Erica McWilliam. Students are now taking charge of what they learn and how they learn, which is evolving the role of teachers.

Today’s teachers are learning with students and challenging them to expand their understanding of the world.

This shift into meddler in the middle aids with another crucial skill to teach today’s students in preparation for the future: collaboration.

Collaboration, without guidance, leads to misunderstandings between students and disdain towards working with others. If taught as a skill, collaboration allows students to gain empathy for different perspectives and renews their interest and creativity when tackling projects.

The ability to work well in a team is incredibly important not only for today’s workplaces but also in academic institutions. When teachers put together students of different strengths abilities, and these groups are engaged with their project, that’s when the students acquire the most knowledge of the subject overall.

One specific learning strategy is encouraging group discussions. This ‘collaborative social reasoning’ method developed by Tzu-Jung Lin helps students develop the necessary skills to help them thrive in group work, as well as build up critical thinking and social skills.

Globalisation and education

In order to respond to education’s changing landscape, the way a teacher is educated must also be considered. Future teachers must be given the opportunity for reflection, awareness, and a way to develop their cultural belief systems. Through increased awareness of themselves, teachers will be equipped to work across cultures and with the beliefs of others.

According to educator William Kennedy, educating teachers “has to be based on inquiry and problem solving, and not confined to absolutes within their intra-cultural milieu but which also concerns itself with inter-cultural diversity and likenesses.”

The future of education includes a broader and more comprehensive curriculum that incorporates living with and experiencing other ethnic groups and cultures. This goes beyond simply knowing languages or geography. In a world that is growing increasingly connected, involving students and educators with other cultures and customs is an integral part of the future of education.

Challenges of traditional education

Today, traditional education models are still used and trusted all over the world, especially for developing economies. This, however, creates challenges for today’s students who are entering a changing work landscape.

Our current model of education is still not structured to meet the demands of the modern age, with chronic skills shortages that displace workers due to computer automation and other technology. Small, niche universities and education institutions like Academy Xi seek to close this skills shortage in line with the fast and ever-evolving needs of the industry.

With work now possible across borders, the competitive global talent may also hinder students who are still getting ‘education-as-usual’. People from developing countries can compete for work in developing economies due to a current ‘education wave’, and a high priority on learning the English language.

To date, changes to this structure are still hampered due to core funding coming from the Government, and investment from private sectors usually being met with conservative regulations.

The onset of emerging technologies and industries provides a wealth of opportunities; creating new roles beyond what we could have ever imagined. To ensure that we have an equipped and efficient workforce for the future, it’s crucial that our education systems support this generation of changemakers.

Interested to see how through short face-to-face and online courses, we’re disrupting the traditional education system and are getting you industry ready for the future?

Speak to one of our friendly Course Advisors and let us help you shape your career.

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