We often discuss the fact that students must learn about global issues and challenges in order to be live and work in our interconnected world. But how do global issues and trends affect the education system itself? Tracey Burns, Analyst and Project Leader, Innovation and Measuring Progress Division, Directorate for Education and Skills, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), explains.
Will robots replace our teaching force in 10 years? In 20 years? Will new fertility technologies allow for designer babies (and, in parallel, “rejects” that did not turn out as expected)? Will online relationships rival or replace our friendship groups? What might this mean for families, and schools? These ideas might seem radical, but the trends behind them are supported by science. These trends are just a few of many that could have an impact on education, if not today, then tomorrow or the next day. And yet most of our education systems still do not address them.
For example, climate change trends make it clear that across OECD countries we can expect to experience more and more extreme weather events. In most of our countries, the effects will be felt most acutely in cities, where the density of the population and ageing infrastructure (roads as well as services such as water, electricity, and plumbing) makes us especially vulnerable. If you combine this with worries about the emergence of new epidemics (MERS in Korea is just the latest example) and our ageing populations, a cautious city planner has reason for concern. And not just hypothetical reasons, either. Recent flooding in New York and other major cities has revealed the weakness of many of our emergency-response services.
So what does this have to do with education? Good question. In the short term, communities need to have a plan to educate their populations on what to do (and not do) in the event of a major storm or other extreme weather events such as droughts or fires. In the medium and long term, we need to develop school infrastructure and transport that are designed to provide safe access for our students. Hoping it won’t happen is not a sustainable plan—certainly not for the communities that have already experienced an extreme weather event or those that are forecast to do so in the near future.
This is just one example. Important trends to keep an eye on range from the macro level (increasing globalization and migration) to national and regional labor markets, urban planning, and even extend to our changing demography and family structures. How can education support our ageing populations—currently one of the major demographic preoccupations for most OECD governments—to stay active and healthy well past retirement? Will cities keep growing at increasing speeds, or will we continue to see the decline of mid-size cities, such as Detroit and Busan (Korea)? What about new technologies in the classroom, will they change the way we teach and learn? Perhaps even our concept of what a classroom is?
The OECD’s work on Trends Shaping Education stimulates reflection on the challenges facing education by providing an overview of key economic, social, demographic, and technological trends. It has been used by national governments to guide strategic thinking. It’s also part of the curriculum in teacher education colleges, and is a resource for teachers when designing courses and lectures, as well as parents and students themselves.
Which global trends do you think will most affect your classroom or shape policy in your state or district? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
The next Trends Shaping Education volume is due out in January 2016.
A version of this piece originally appeared on OECD’s Education Today Blog.
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