There is a well-intentioned neurosis around education that seeks to justify the educational outcomes of the previous generation by imposing the educational standards, rigours and methodologies onto the next generation.
In a past world secondary education most often led to a singular qualification or vocation. This employment choice required pre-employment education and ongoing workplace informal and ad hoc education.
The norm of employment was a single linear career where the employer offered tacit certainty of life long employment and forty years of career progression at the end of which you received a golden watch for a job well done and a pension that took you into retirement and your new life.
In this world culture and society required conformity in its future citizens. It was practical in a more routine world and society to underpin education with the foundational teaching of the three R’s (writing, arithmetic and reading).
The education system of the past suited the needs of the past, but in a future where there is less certainty and rigour, where we may live to 120 years of age, work into their 80’s, have 6 distinct careers and 14 jobs in professions that we do not yet know of doing tasks we yet can’t imagine the underpinnings of education, employment and society will require innovation and invention.
The hypnosis of the future is that the workplace and the 9-5 will disappear. That the need for physical exertion and work will diminish as mechanical devices take over humanity’s chores and that instead people will spend long hours in idleness and recreation is not on tomorrow’s radar.
These are falsehoods.
The core of work and society’s need of it will still remain, but what we need to do to equip tomorrow’s workforce will have to evolve.
The workplace of tomorrow will be global, physical, virtual and digital.
Language and physical location will cease to be barriers to work.
Global qualifications and accreditations will become increasingly important as will the ability to acculturate and collaboratively work in both physical and digital work tribes.
Work will increasingly be done in project and task mode rather than in 9-5 mode and the notion of where we work will be less important than how we work.
All of this will play itself out against a backdrop where the world will add 2 billion to its population in the next four decades; see huge increases in the numbers of well-educated middle class citizens and ironically face the duality of a global skill shortage in an environment of overabundance of available workers.
In this new world of work education’s preparatory role is not just foundational, but transformational.
We must equip tomorrow’s learner s who have already outsourced the 3R’s and other routine memory tasks to external technologies and who are adapt at online research and inquiry with the fundamental skills that will extend these innate skills into vocational purpose, this new educational focus and paradigm should include a liberal dose of the 3C’s – Communication, Collaboration and Creative Problem Solving.
Education’s physical premises will also become less important as we move to multi-modality, multi-site offerings where the viewing of prerecorded lectures, deep and immersive virtual and physical learning resources are common and student-teacher engagement is a blend of physical and virtual.
These core learning instruments will be continuously added to by adaptive learning environments and technologies that constantly search out and learn the students’ preferences, abilities, needs, content being taught, required outcomes to assemble a bespoke set of hyperpersonalised education experiences with best practice learning aids and examples each flexed to the learners preferred learning styles and delivery mode.
This amorphous educational future scaffolding will include an orchestra of educators, academics, educational institutions, industry, professionals, non-academics and knowledge providers, all either physically or virtually coming in and out of the learning environment when and where required to provide real-time learning and insights in varying taxonomies, most appropriate to the learner, the task and the learners preferred style for that specific learning episode.
In this new education frontier students will use a blend of traditional learning tools as well as newer teaching tools including gamification through which they can attend digitally at physical art galleries; attend virtual foreign classrooms to learn language and culture, as well as trial complex scientific and mathematical problem solving methodologies using virtual modeling and prototyping.
The reality is that for digital and mobile natives of today and tomorrow this world already exists. It is the world that they already see and function in.
We must not take them back to a world that enshrines past skills and behaviors, that does not challenge and stimulate them and that does not adequately prepare them for the uncertainty and opportunities of tomorrow’s world. To do this is to condemn us to relive our past when the purpose of each new generation and the education system that nurtures them should be to invent our future.