I had the privilege of participating in a webinar this week hosted by Tony McKay from the National Centre for Education and the Economy based in the US. Tony was interviewing the authors of the recent report from the OECD titled Trends Shaping Education 2020 – you can view the report online or, for a shorter introduction to the report, see the OECD’s blog “Don’t look up; look forward: How are global trends shaping education?”
In the webinar Tracey Burns, lead author of the report and senior analyst in the OECD’s Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI), presented a special in-depth look at the report’s findings and implications.
The OECD report is divided into five theme chapters:
- Living and Working
- Knowledge and power
- Identity and belonging
- Our changing nature
Rather than go into all of the detail here the recording of this webinar is available on the NCEE website and I encourage others to take the time to view it.
In particular I was interested in the conversation that came around to considering what all of this means for education and the types of things we need to be teaching and including in our curriculum.
For example, in relation to the theme of ‘growth’, how are we addressing the growing disconnects that exist between our emphasis on economic growth and the depletion of the earth’s resources and the growing divide between rich and poor – what is education’s role in this? Or, in the area of ‘knowledge and power’, whose voice counts? What knowledge counts? And how will be include everyone’s opinions in a world where AI intercedes?
These are the rich and meaningful questions that need to be informing the debates about curriculum, about the values that underpin our work as schools and kura, and in our approach to teacher education for example.
Scenarios for the future
Also presenting was Marc Fuster, co-author of the report and an analyst in CERI. Last year Marc also contributed to the OECD report Four Scenarios for the Future of Schooling which contains the following table, taken from the 2019 report on Trends Shaping Education.
The table represents potential future shocks and surprises, their plausibility and impact, and help inform the development of the scenarios which provide a useful way of considering multiple futures systematically.
It’s interesting to note that in 2019, the issue of pandemics doesn’t feature in the list of potential shocks to the system. Imagine how high on the list it would be in 2022!
My point in mentioning this here is that this table is a sobering reminder of the fact that there are multiple reasons why we, as a system, should be considering the structures that define how we operate and have informed many of the ‘custom and practice’ ways we think about how we do what we do.
For me, this is why we need to be considering our response to the current pandemic ‘shock’ as an opportunity to build resilience for the longer term, not simply by putting short term measures in place until things ‘return to normal’.
My recent paper titled Getting Started with Hybrid Learning is an attempt to provide some practical guidance for educators and education leaders on what an appropriate response might look like, based on the concept of a ‘hybrid’ model of schooling.
This paper follows an earlier one I wrote on Building Resilient Schools which makes the case for a hybrid model using a similar logic as underpins the OECD scenarios. We must be thinking long term and whole of system here.
As educators, particularly those in leadership positions, it is incumbent upon us to be constantly reflecting on what we do and why – and to be monitoring the changes in our society (locally and globally) to ensure this is reflected in both how we do what we do and why we do it, and informs the vision we have for what we do in terms of preparing our young people to thrive in the future.
The challenges made at the end of the webinar are ones we should be taking seriously:
- How is our system responding to meet the challenges of these trends and of addressing them?
- How do we design learning systems that are capable of ensuring a strong democracy and thriving economy – and are resilient in the face of changes that occur as the result of potential future shocks and surprises?