OECD says countries should use global mega-trends to prepare the future of education.
21st January 2019
The OECD has today published a report that argues that in our quickly changing modern world, education cannot prepare for the future using only lessons of the past. In many countries, education is still struggling to adjust to the changes of today, and is not ready for those of tomorrow. Responsible policy pulls future developments into the present and turns them into an opportunity to learn and prepare.
Trends Shaping Education 2019 identifies key mega-trends affecting the future of education. “As we stand at a critical juncture we need to overcome short-termism and develop ways to explore the signals and trends of the future that may seem less familiar to us but which are just as important to understand,” said Angel Gurria, OECD Secretary-General. “Trends Shaping Education is a vital tool in this regard.”
The top three mega-trends are:
- Globalisation: Within the next ten years, the majority of the world’s population will consist of the middle class, a trend that is largely driven by China and India, which will make up 90% of the entrants to the middle class. This will not only increase pressure to provide better education for more people; it will also place higher expectations on education from more demanding customers. In OECD countries this is forecast to affect higher education systems initially, as they will have to work harder to attract the best students in a much more mobile and competitive market.
As international mobility continues to rise, our systems will be under more pressure to integrate diverse students from all backgrounds. Between 1990 and 2017, the total number of international migrants grew from 153 to 258 million people, an increase of 69%. Today, social heterogeneity in classrooms already poses one of the biggest challenges for teachers. The challenge will be greater in the next 5-10 years. The stakes are great: inequality of opportunity can translate into disparities in well-being, and drive political and social unrest.
- Digitalisation: In 2017, three out of four internet users aged 16-74 used the Internet daily or almost every day. Whether it is a job, a room for the night, or the love of your life, online activity often translates into offline outcomes. And yet PISA results show that more time online in school does not automatically translate into improved student achievement. In fact, intensive use of the internet in school is linked to poorer student performance.
Education is already behind the digitalisation curve. It must do more to take advantage of the tools and strengths of new technologies while simultaneously addressing concerns around potential misuse, such as cyberbullying and privacy issues. In 2018 the number of stolen or hacked data records was the highest ever in one year, and the need for cyber security experts is growing. Yet education still struggles to encourage students, and especially girls and certain minorities, to take STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects
“The dilemma for education is that the kinds of things that are easy to teach and test have also become easy to digitise, automate and outsource” said Andreas Schleicher, Director of Education and Skills at the OECD. “We need to think much harder about how human skills complement the artificial intelligence of computers, so that we end up with first-class humans rather than second-class robots.”
- Ageing: In the last 45 years, life expectancy at birth has risen across OECD countries from an average of 70 to 80 years and the share of people aged 65 or older is expected to grow significantly. Older workers will face increasing labour market insecurity and pressure will mount for access to high-quality re-skilling and up-skilling opportunities. Yet current lifelong learning offerings in most countries seem to amplify, not moderate, deficiencies in initial education.
This is not just a labour market concern. In a world where the number of individuals reading the news online increased by about 40% on average across OECD countries, there is an increasing need for digital literacy and critical thinking, and not just for young students. Yet in many countries, older adults have inadequate skills to manage complex digital information. Governments – and employers – need to seriously address what it would take to deliver education that is not only life-long, but life-wide.
While challenging, it is imperative that we plan our education systems taking these mega-trends into account. The future is not a distant external world where we can send our problems to be fixed by education. The future is here, and our success depends on how effectively we use our knowledge to anticipate and act.
Trends Shaping Education 2019 explores major economic, political, social and technological trends affecting the future of education, from early childhood through to lifelong learning. It aims to inform strategic thinking and stimulate reflection on the challenges facing education, and conversely, the potential of education to influence these trends.
The report is available at oecd.org/education/trends-shaping-education-22187049.htm
For more information, journalists should contact Leonora Lynch Stein (+33 145 24 74 81).
For information on the Trends Shaping Education work programme, please see oecd.org/education/ceri/trends-shaping-education.htm
Working with over 100 countries, the OECD is a global policy forum that promotes policies to improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.