We consider that being educated is the main concern and basic need of a young person today. To be educated means being fully integrated into social life, having the ability to see different fields of opportunity for yourself, not only as a professional, but as a human being in general, including a spiritual and moral basis. It means being an active participant in public life, having the ability to master new skills quickly and efficiently, having access to modern and advanced learning techniques, and so on.
What is going on in education today: facts and opinions
Observing the vast public discourse on societal topics, we can see that almost every society is dissatisfied with the current state of education. There is no universal consensus to be found. Every region of the world attempts to transform its system of education with a different focus. Europe, for example, tries to teach sustainable living and increase inclusiveness for the younger generation. Taking into consideration the growth in youth unemployment, an outdated approach to education is a big threat to youth inclusion and a significant risk for the future of coming generations. Meanwhile, Russia aims to adjust its formal education to international standards, take as an example the Bologna Process. Its inclusion into international societal processes is important to ensure and develop a competitive level of social capital quality. The United States targets the training of new generations that will have a significant organizational and intellectual advantage in comparison with other nations. It’s hard to describe the general picture that we have in education today across the Globe. The overall situation looks like a kaleidoscope of disruptions on multiple fronts. Nonetheless, let’s try to find some common challenges and trends.
Youth Time experts identified the most significant possible future events that could affect youth life in education over the next ten years.
Personalized education. The ability to build individual educational trajectories, even within traditional universities, can decrease the risk of a mismatch between the things that education delivers to the learner and those that he or she really needs in life. We see a good example of this at Carleton – Canada’s Capital University.
International student mobility. First of all, one of the reasons for an increasing number of students studying abroad can be found in demography. The seven billion people who make up the world’s population and the most prominent educational centers, concentrated in Europe and North America, are distributed unevenly. Limiting educational choice to institutions strictly near one’s home or within one’s own country therefore becomes obsolete. Multicultural tendencies as well as mastering at least 2 foreign languages have become the new norm nowadays. According to one of the positive scenarios presented in the “Global Roadmap of Youth Initiatives 2021,” state borders in education will no longer exist in ten years.
Changes in teaching and learning. Digital learning communities, platforms for online hybrid learning, and collaborative models (Vedantu, Skillshare, etc.) are among the most debated candidates to shift the educational paradigm. One of the advantages of digital learning is open and effective access to content anywhere, anytime. At the same time the results of the survey taken by YT showed that 62% of all respondents believe that e-learning courses cannot completely replace traditional universities in the future. Meanwhile, very few doubt that an effective combination of formal classroom education with e-learning and non-formal approaches (hybrid education) can offer new, interesting possibilities for the contemporary learner.
Workplace of tomorrow. One of the main questions under discussion today is the correspondence of the training that graduates have to the demands of the modern and future labor market. According to World Bank statements, the apparent disconnect causes a constant increase in the unemployment rate, even in highly developed states. Even if contemporary youth are the most educated generation in history, we will face a deficit of education at all levels and of all types in the near future. UNESCO estimates that, by 2025, there will be an additional 80 million students seeking higher education. To match this demand, we would have to build three universities to accommodate 20,000 students every week for the next 13 years – and that’s not going to happen. Another point here is that the number of high-skilled jobs is growing. The workplace of tomorrow requires a long list of new skills to master.
More and more serious organizations and experts raise the question of transforming education in a more radical way. Popular speaker Sir Ken Robinson and many others talk about revolutionizing the basics of education itself. This is probably the most important question for the ongoing dialogue and could be the most common reason why contemporary reforms in education fail.
The thing is, we need to distinguish between contemporary education as an administrative process, which we face in traditional education institutions every day, and education in its truest and broadest sense. We should agree with Kamran Mofid, doctor of economic sciences and a professor in a number of prestigious British universities, citing philosopher Alain de Botton: “Education is what makes us fully human.” If we want to think “outside the box” we have to look at education beyond schools, universities, diplomas, etc. Considering education as a values-forming process, personality-forming, and, therefore, a society-building process, it becomes obvious that the world and the future we want to live in can be built within the sphere of education.
Hurdles in the path towards a better education
There is a common stereotype and mistake in mixing the key components of education in schools and universities as we know them today. The first universities were established over a thousand years ago in completely different societies. They were designed for special functions which differ from what we expect from them today. Therefore, it seems to us, it’s pointless to discuss education “inside the box” without an understanding of the key changes in our societies: technology trends, social changes, transformation of the family institution, changes in lifestyle, job, and occupation, etc.
One of the reasons education is being criticized today is that it requires a lot of time to memorize information that is not needed after passing exams and at the same time, it does not deliver the necessary skills people need after they graduate.
The first challenge is to consider that the real learning environment is much wider than school or university. People get learning experience in their families, communities, urban environment, and media; they improve their skills with everyday life experience. Therefore, we should understand how education is connected with different areas of our lives and rethink the connections in this complicated beyond-the-school educational experience.
The second barrier in our path that we need to consider is that the system of education is commercialized. Have a look at the top 100 rated universities. It’s a global market where different brands from the USA, UK, Europe, Japan, China, and other countries, compete with each other for the available cash flow. Is it possible to transform a money-based education system into a human-based one?
Last but not the least, is a dramatic observation we want to focus your attention on. Public discussions ignore the needs and opinions of young people. Who are the main stakeholders of education? State? Business? Parents? Young people are not empowered to influence solutions to their own problems today.
Creating our vision of education
Aiming to empower young people and to increase their capabilities for playing a constructive role in social change, YT offers a number of projects. Three years ago we started to work among young people from more than 50 countries on how they see the education of their dreams. The summary of basic ideas discussed there was published at youth-time.org.
YT conducted a few special workshops and conferences for young people from Europe and the CIS countries. On one of them participants were asked to imagine the ideal learning environment. YT trainers asked them: “Close your eyes, take a deep breath. Imagine that you are the person you want to become. Imagine and describe the ideal learning environment of your dreams. Who is the learner, what is the learning lifestyle, with whom does he/she interact, where and how does it happen?” We want to invite you to join this dialogue. Contact us firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch the video from the one of YT New Paradigm of Education conferences.
Special thanks to Maria Semenova for working on that piece.