Education is one of the fundamental tenets of a modern, civilised society. It is how we pass down culture, how we teach social skills, and how we equip our young people with the tools to take over the world one day. Without providing a good quality education to as many people as possible we risk stunting the success of millions and reducing the ability of our society to grow and adapt to the challenges of the future.
From keeping tradition alive to teaching skills of varying complexity, whether it be reading or counting or something far more complex, education is vital. Its value simply cannot be overstated. But for an education to fulfill all of these lofty and meaningful roles it must be designed for the contemporary world, and at the moment our education system is lagging behind the needs of this moment in history.
What is education like right now?
Many teaching techniques are the same now as they were in the 19th and 20th centuries, and there is still too great a focus on academia, whilst the world is crying out for new skilled workers to enter manual vocations. And with the nature of work set to change under the influence of AI technology, with the possibility that 10 million Brits could be replaced by robotsat work a major threat, it is important that the education system is prepared to adapt and work for the new reality of the 21st Century, not on the basis of 20th century ideas.
Likewise, many historic challenges persist that are causing some structural weakness in the British economy, such as the dramatic gap between the number of men and women employedin each industry which stems from the persistence of stereotypes around certain school subjects, with many labelled as either for girls or for boys. This is limiting opportunity and perpetuating the gender pay gap.
On the plus side, it looks as though new technology is going to have a significant impact on the education system, leading to better schooling, using modern methods, for modern purposes. It appears that policy makers, head teachers, and schools are exploring the ways in which they can embrace new technology to better their students, improve standards, open new avenues, and prepare students for the new century.
One of the most exciting new educational opportunities presented by technology is the ability to personalise education to individual students. Programmes like DreamBox, a maths software that schools across the US have begun to adopt, adapts its difficult to each student’s skill level and lets students learn at a pace best suited to them. Students are increasingly using tailor-made computer programs designed to work to their needs.
Declining role of the classroom
The other big change that new technologies are helping to bring about is the lessening role of the classroom as part of the learning process. E-learning programmes have created the possibility for students to learn wherever they want, at a pace that suits them. This looks likely to become more important, and more widely used, if the technology becomes more sophisticated. This will help students take control of their learning, decide what works for them, and decide at what pace they want to learn.