Our society is changing and so is the education sector. Education, as we know it, is undergoing a period of total transformation. Progress is essential for societies to adapt to their time. This drastic change has been largely a consequence of the arrival and consolidation of technology in our routine: today we buy, communicate, inform and study online.
These are the 5 educational trends that are prevailing in Europe and that give us clues about the new needs that schools and teachers may require:
1.) Learning to learn as the most important skill
There is an increasing need to learn new skills to stay updated and constantly learning. It is very likely that the majority of children in primary school today will work tomorrow in jobs that do not yet exist. This is already happening, so it is very important to know how to learn. People change jobs and even careers much more frequently than a generation ago. In an ageing society, with a shrinking workforce, Europeans will have to work longer; this means that those over 40 should have substantial opportunities to update their skills. Less than 11% of Europeans aged 25-64 take part in lifelong learning. Only 6 per cent of workers aged 55-64 participate in training and education programmes.
2.) Digital skills are becoming a basic literacy and young people are ahead.
Today all jobs require at least basic digital skills. Thus, for the first time in history, young people are more competent than their elders. Lack of basic digital skills can block people not only from work, but also from the outside society. Just as numeracy and literacy skills are essential for all citizens, in addition to ethics and basic education, today it is critical to have digital literacy skills to succeed in today’s society and labour market. The digital revolution and artificial intelligence allow machines to take on increasingly complex tasks. We have reached a point where humans compete with machines. It is essential to rethink educational systems and focus them on the skills and competencies that have been fundamental to the success of the human species: creativity, problem solving, negotiation, adaptability, critical thinking, teamwork, empathy, emotions and intercultural communication.
3.) From the mass education of the industrial era to individual, digital and interdisciplinary learning paths.
There is now a need to establish individualized learning pathways that help students and workers develop their talent and skills. Learning personalization focuses on personal progress, where all employees address problems at their own pace, maximize outcomes not only for the most talented students, but also helps to ensure that no one is left behind.
Local and global challenges, such as the fight against climate change, food, water, energy security, health or the governance of plural societies, are increasingly complex and require interdisciplinarity. Multidisciplinarity is critical to understand the causes and complexities of today’s challenges and develop innovative solutions.
It is at the intersection of different disciplines that new ideas emerge. However, for the most part, European schools and universities are still organised in departments that do not sufficiently address the interconnectedness of today’s world. Technology can contribute to new ways of learning. It can be used not only as a subject but also to transmit the material learned in other subjects.
Today, beyond formal education establishments, the number of actors who offer new platforms and methods for learning has grown. More than 800 universities already offer lectures and online courses, making it possible to learn anything anytime and anywhere from a smartphone.
4.) The link between formal school education and work is increasingly broken
Formal education used to be a guarantee for getting a job. Nowadays, this is no longer the case. Europe has the most educated workforce in its history, almost 40% of Europeans aged 25 to 39 have a university degree. The transition from school to work is shrinking as young graduates find it easier than ever to find a job, but the vast majority of them are in fields very different from those they have studied.
5.) Critical thinking is necessary to build more resilient democracies
About 8 out of 10 high school students cannot distinguish fake news from real news. The phenomenon of fake news is probably not ephemeral and requires media-savvy citizens to distinguish fact from fiction. With the emergence of automated accounts, the spread of misinformation has never been easier.
Our education systems must integrate critical thinking, information assessment and media literacy as some of the best skills for the young ages. Consensus, the backbone of democracy, becomes a daunting challenge in such an environment.
Facilitating spaces that favour interconnected work to promote the development and socialization of students through opportunities, in addition to the learning resources they offer and the promotion of the personalization of learning is fundamental.