The Changing Face of Education

The following article was published in “The West Australian” (Opinion – Page 17) on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 under the title –  Collaboration a key to learning

by Annie Fogarty*

We all know that our world is rapidly changing -the digital world with increasing
connectivity, automation and artificial intelligence, is substantially changing the
work we do and how we live our lives.

So we need to look at how we are educating young people because the world is changing faster than the education system that is preparing our students for it. Tobe globally competitive and be able to provide a future with good prospects for our children, we need to have first-class and future-relevant education.

Firstly our perception of education needs to change.

Instead of seeing it as a preliminary stage before a job, now we need to look at education as central to life, constantly upgrading our skills and competencies. Jobs will change or become obsolete and new ones will be created.

Learning will be a life project.

This is why it is important that we engage students in their education from an early age – they will need to be invested in their own education and will need to be active learners and not passive receivers of information.
Quality teaching of the foundations of learning will continue to be essential.

Children need to know how to read and be numerate if they are going to be able to learn.
We also know that to thrive in this changing and unpredictable world, students need to be engaged and self-directed learners – they need to be creative and critical thinkers, problem solvers, collaborators and good communicators.

We know that it is not easy to incorporate all of these things into our school and university curriculums. There needs to be changes in our system to allow this to happen.

Much of the discussion about the Gonski 2.0 report centred on if we teach these general capabilities, will this be at the expense of teaching of knowledge and content?

With a more structured approach to teaching these capabilities within the established learning areas, we will enable both knowledge and higher cognitive skills.

More attention also needs to be given to how we assess these capabilities, to see if students have acquired them, to what level and if they need more help to be competent in them.

What is assessed drives what is taught. At the moment much of our education system is driven by the ATAR system.

Universities rank students based on their ATAR scores and businesses look at what levels are attained in ATAR or in university degrees.

Universities are beginning to use criteria other than ATAR scores for entry and are including interviews and life experience. Businesses also are looking beyond degrees to other skills and experiences of prospective employees.

Where and how we learn will also change. We will still need people who have a deep knowledge in their area of expertise and will need multi-year degrees or qualifications, but there is a growing appetite for smaller slices of knowledge, quicker more immediate qualifications in specific areas such as coding, data analytics and project design.

And people will access these learnings through a range of sources – taking units at different universities or colleges, Massive Open Online Courses, experiential learning such as work experience and internships, and there is a plethora of new service providers entering the market to meet the demand.

Then how do we aggregate these learnings and have them recognised? Micro-credentials could be the answer. This will require an environment which includes the providers, learners and issuers – who warrant that the person who has that credential, knows or can do what that credential says they can. This can include evidence of these other capabilities. A person will be able to gather these micro-credentials into a portfolio that they can use for entry into higher learning or for a job.

Technologies such as blockchain will enable the use of micro-credentials and for it to be globally accessible.
For the new model of education to be successful, we will need to build an education ecosystem that will include more out-of-school learning and real-life experiences, with more connections between schools, tertiary education, online learning services and business.

Governments will need to recognise education as an ecosystem, not separate institutions. This will include how they fund education and the infrastructure they provide.

EDfutures is an initiative aimed at helping build this education ecosystem in WA. The aim of EDfutures is to connect within and across the sectors, highlight areas of quality practice and innovation, investigate these showing evidence of efficacy, demonstrate how they can be scaled and how change can happen.

We know that people all over the world are looking at this same challenge -schools, universities, governments, the OECD, and a range of for-purpose organisations.

We know that not one organisation or system can do this on their own – it has to be collaborative. It has to be about bringing different sectors of our society together to build this new education ecosystem so we can enable effective learning for our young people and for our society to thrive and prosper.

*Annie Fogarty AM is executive chairwoman of the Fogarty Foundation which has recently initiated EDfutures.