Future of Education
In the rapidly changing society, the required abilities for students change, and so do education. The two key changes are active learning and personalized learning. These changes transform the roles of teachers and students.
What should students learn for the future?
It has been said that more than half of students in primary schools will get jobs that do not exist now and about half of the current labor force will be replaced with automation. In the past economy with a focus on industrialization, homogeneity and efficiency were emphasized. But, in a rapidly changing society characterized by the progress of IT and globalization along with the development of new technology such as AI and IoT, manual and routine works are increasingly replaced with computers. There, adaptation to unprecedented changes and the creation of new value in the changing society are required. In education, the necessary abilities for the 21st century have been redefined globally.
In the course of the definition, the emphasis is put on the importance of the ability to integrate the learned knowledge and collected information and create new solutions for questions without existing answers by thinking for themselves. Referring to the global trend, the National Institute for Educational Policy Research in Japan defined three core abilities: basic ability, thinking ability, practical ability.
Thus, in today’s age described as VUCA (vulnerable, uncertain, complex, ambiguity), when students face new issues, the ability to think and practice by themselves becomes crucial on top of the acquisition of knowledge. Therefore, to prepare students for the future society, education itself needs to be transformed.
Transformation for active learning
New learning involves not only the acquisition of existing knowledge, but also the application of such knowledge to everyday life and social issues, so not only what to learn, but how to learn also needs to transform. This new type of learning is called “Active learning”. In contrast to traditional types of learning in which students passively receive knowledge from teachers, students actively participate in the learning process. Examples include experiential learning, research learning, group discussions, and debates. Students develop their thinking and practical skills by thinking and acting on their own.
“Project-based learning” is attracting attention as one form of active learning. In a regular classroom, students learn new knowledge from teachers and use that knowledge to answer questions. Instead, “project-based learning” begins with unanswered questions and students think for themselves and create solutions. This learning is usually done by group learning and provides students with the opportunity to collaborate with others. Through this learning experience, students learn to design their own activities, confront unsolved social problems while thinking and judging from various perspectives, and build relationships and collaborate with others.
In addition, ICT has been used for input such as information gathering, but widening the use of ICT for output such as discussion enables to expand the achievements of active learning. Traditionally, such collaborative learning has been conducted in the same school or tuition school. However, with the introduction of online tools, students in physically different locations can share their opinions in their online workspaces or discuss them together in a video conference. Students will be exposed to more diverse opinions and will develop important skills in a diverse society, how to collaborate with others from different backgrounds.
Personalized learning to develop basic ability efficiently
While the importance of thinking and practical ability increases, the necessity of basic academic ability does not lower, rather becomes more crucial as the foundation of 21st-century skills. In fact, practical ability and thinking ability are built upon a firm foundation of basic skills such as calculation ability. At the same time, the new way of learning such as active learning increases the workload of teachers and requires further hours in addition to the acquisition of basic ability during school time. Therefore, teaching basic ability needs to be conducted with lower workloads of teachers and be more effective in shorter study time.
To overcome this challenge, “Personalized learning” is the new approach to raise academic abilities. One of the challenges to improve academic abilities is that speed and level of understanding are varied by students. Adjusting the learning contents to each student’s differences is ideal, but difficult for teachers, especially in countries with a high teacher-student ratio. But, the digital device can transform the traditional classroom to personalized learning where students can learn at their own pace with their own device. Technology enables adaptively changing the contents (“Adaptive learning”) so that students can learn at the right level and at the right pace. In addition, learning is automatically graded and assessed, so students can monitor their own progress and review as necessary to proceed with their learning. This optimization enhances students’ level of understanding and mastering and builds a firm foundation of knowledge and skills, transforming the learning to be more inclusive as “no one is left behind”
The introduction of EdTech also dramatically decreases the workloads of teachers. For example, in order to conduct a test in the classroom, they need to create a test and print it out beforehand, and mark all of the students afterward. EdTech automatically creates test questions by specifying the range and marks them afterward. By shortening the time, teachers can engage in other areas such as nurturing thinking ability and practical ability.
Among various areas of learning, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) education attains attention globally because it is the foundation of technology-driven innovation in the new age. But, in spite of the increase of needs, students have difficulty mastering the basic level of Mathematics, even in the lower grade. Therefore, personalized learning is expected to build the firm knowledge of Mathematics which is important for the development of basic skills of the new age.
Changes in teachers’ role
In the transformed classroom, the roles of teachers will also change. In “Active learning” and personalized learning introduced above, the agency shifts to students and teachers will be “supporters” and “facilitators”. Instead of giving the lectures, creating questions, and marking, teachers are expected to support the learning process by assigning the appropriate scope of learning and providing feedback to students based on data in e-learning. Feedbacks are especially important to raise students’ motivations. The use of technology and data provides teachers with a deeper understanding of students and enables them to offer personalized support and feedback.
How do students change?
Not only teachers but students also need to adapt to the new way of learning, and self-independence is key. As described above, active learning is led by students, not by teachers. Also, in a personalized education setting, lectures are not given to students, but students start to listen to lectures and answer the questions by themselves. Independently advancing learning is very important for building basic skills, and it is the basis of learning. Therefore, the learning process itself needs to be designed to nurture self-independence. By accumulating the experience of setting a target and learning accordingly by themselves, students can be independent learners and acquire perseverance(grit) and resilience against challenges.