Academy Xi Blog

The Evolution of Education

By Academy Xi

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Education has evolved dramatically since it was first formalised in the 17th century.

For educators who have been around for longer than five years, teaching itself has been different, and is constantly in flux with changes in knowledge and culture.

Here are some ways teaching has dramatically changed in the last decade:

  • Media is duplicated and shared: Media now is interactive with personalisation and virality, where one piece of content can be created and used multiple times and in multiple ways. Through the internet, media is easily and directly accessed on mobile, and other devices.
  • Apps are more popular than ever: Teachers and educators are now embracing app use more in pivotal ways compared to textbooks and help augment real-life references and experience for students.
  • Priority on mobile: Progressive learning on different platforms provides the environment for students to move out of their desks and learn autonomously. With flexibility and mobility, students are able to collaborate with others creatively and participate in experiential learning.
  • Equity and identity are important: Issues like access to technology, socioeconomic realities, standardised tests, and even WiFi speeds are crucial issues teachers must consider and confront when creating their curriculum, teaching, and engaging with students.
  • Teachers are connected to students constantly: Teachers must collaborate with other teachers as well as encourage the same for students among their peers.
  • Adaptive software: Apps today are able to adapt to the individual needs of students in ways teachers simply can’t. Where there is one teacher to a class of 25 students, adaptive software can cater and be designed to tailor to students’ individual needs.  
  • Information is plenty, wisdom is scarce: Teachers have to respond to students who can access information in seconds while serving the goals and objectives of the educational institutions they serve. Beyond acquiring information, it’s how that information is used and applied which will determine the quality of academic performance and real-life experience. Teaching has changed and it’s still constantly changing. But that’s not the only facet of education that’s experiencing a significant shift. The way we educate and prepare teachers to teach the next generation of workers is also evolving.

The history of teaching

Let’s look at the brief history of educating teachers. In the 1800s, teachers were typically men who had other professions like farming. Due to their skills, they were easily hired as teachers after being assessed by local review boards. Teaching was also considered a stepping stone to other careers such as law or joining the clergy.

By the end of the 19th century, foundational educational reforms led by leaders like Horace Mann paved the way for public schools with state oversight, ensuring certain standards of education are met. Teacher certifications emerged in 1900, initiating professional standards in teaching subjects like arithmetic, geography, grammar, history, reading, spelling, and writing.

At the onset of the 20th century, a unique division educational programs formed, extending traditional education. These included:

  • Evolution into a university: normal schools expanded into state colleges focused on preparing students for the teaching profession.
  • Evolution within a university: departments within a university grew to become their own schools of education within institutions like Harvard University and USC Berkeley.

By the 1920s, educational programs were preparing teachers with the ability to teach students at an array of levels and across all disciplines, from undergraduate to doctorate degrees. Today, there are many certifications and advanced degrees for educators, such as a Masters of Science and a Masters of Art degrees in education.

New learning tools and techniques

Along with the education of teachers, learning tools and teaching techniques have also changed significantly with the digital revolution. There’s a need to incorporate technology, mobile devices, and independent learning with more traditional models and setups. Some of this disruption in the education system includes:

  • Hands-on learning: In the past, hands-on learning was only seen in school field trips. These days, teachers are showing students how topics are relevant in their lives such as trade school, apprenticeships, and design. With User Experience (UX) Design, students are able to make informed insights from research and apply this to a real-world solution. Hands-on learning is also an approach that incorporates technology so students have the option for the classroom.
  • Flipped classrooms: Flipped classrooms is a learning approach where students are provided with study materials beforehand and are encouraged to present questions during class discussions. Through this flipped approach, students are encouraged to lead the direction of the course, resulting in increased engagement and can learn the material at their pace.
  • Micro learning: To address shorter attention spans, teachers are delivering lessons in “bite-sized chunks” instead of lengthy lectures. Topics are broken down into concise lessons with opportunities for hands-on learning and activities to keep students engaged.
  • Diversified learning: Different students respond to different ways of teaching. Some are visual learners, others do better when they read or listen to lectures. To address this, teachers are giving different opportunities and avenues to allow students to understand concepts such as podcasts, videos, and other digital resources online in place of traditional learning content.

All levels of learning and education are evolving rapidly, from early childhood education to university-level education. Even higher learning and professional schools like medicine have changed in recent years.

Changes in education

Early Childhood Education

Early Childhood Education (ECE) is a crucial milestone for all students, with potential lasting benefits that could stay with them for their whole lives. Here are three trends in ECE that address changes in education:

  • Minimising the achievement gap: Early education centres catering to disadvantaged students (such as those from low-income families, or children with English as their second language) gain more funding when their processes help their students close the ‘achievement gap’ with children from more privileged backgrounds.
  • Technology and the classroom: There is a priority in finding the right combination of tech tools to enrich learning. Technology is used for passive and active consumption, communication, and content creation.
  • Classroom principles: Teachers are encouraged to develop their students’ emotional cognitive social early learning. They do this by integrating classroom principles that help children manage emotions to gain confidence, resilience, and understanding.

Higher education

According to Walter Pearson, a Dean of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at Loyola-University Chicago, higher education has changed in all facets from the learners and teaching models to the challenges students and educators alike face.

Students are now from a diverse range of backgrounds, compared to the lack of diversity just over three decades ago. Accelerated terms of five to eight-week terms from 15 to 16-week terms are now more widely accepted. Online education is more prevalent than ever before and seen as just as effective as face-to-face learning.

Niche graduate programs and short courses such as those at Academy Xi are also on the rise, assisting adult students to elevate their current career with new skills, or transforming into completely different, emerging fields such as social media marketing, digital marketing, cyber security engineering and more.

The industry of adult higher education has also seen a drastic change. Public higher education is weakening due to common trends of governments reducing funding in this sector. Access to affordable higher education is definitely becoming more challenging, with public institutions costing much (or even more) than their private counterparts.

University education

In the last 15 years, university education has changed all over the world. Despite access to information, it is not without its advantages and disadvantages.

  • More people are going to university: From 19% in 2000, university participation has grown to 22% in 2012. There is also a link between a student’s likelihood of getting a tertiary education if their parents previously went to college or university.
  • More people are studying abroad: The number of students studying abroad doubled from 2 million in 2000 to nearly 5 million in 2012. China’s popularity as a destination for education also grew, with 8% of international students studying there — the 3rd highest country behind the US and the UK.
  • Priority towards student experiences: This movement shifts away from the traditional teacher-focused way of education. This, however, leads to the very quality of teaching to be under scrutiny, as less focus is placed on knowledge, in favour of the students’ experience.
  • The impact agenda: There is increased pressure for research to be beneficial to society as a whole or a cause or institution that funds it. The purpose of individual research is to contribute to collective research, not provide a direct and immediate impact.

Despite all the changes in education, the industry as a whole is seeing massive disruption and is experiencing overall growth. As education continuously evolves, teachers must adapt and equip themselves with tools and techniques that address the needs of today’s students. The quality of education today has a direct correlation to the development of society and the impact on technology as a whole.

Learn more about our approach to education at Academy Xi.