2033 Outlook: What will education look like 10 years time from now?

There are so many aspects of education to consider when thinking about what it might look like in 10 years’ time. If the last decade is anything to go by then the next could see even more rapid and progressive change. What doesn’t seem to have changed over the years is the education systems inability to keep up with the rapid pace of other industries in general.

While industries progress with significant development in the areas of health, manufacturing, travel and tourism, gaming, technology, and logistics, education seems to lag, with 21st century learning constantly being referred to but not necessarily actioned or implemented.

The modern economic systems create the framework in which government, business and education interact, creating communities. Changes in one system affects the other and growth can only occur when resources are provided to meet demand. As part of this delicate system, education requires funding, a skilled workforce and adaptability.

So where to from here?

With our current education systems in crisis, what are the answers to ensure that the young and malleable minds of tomorrow have the skills needs to create more, do more, be more, and all while ensuring that the planet is taken care of for millions of years to come?

Like most problems or challenges in general, having a plan to move as quickly as possible towards a solution is imperative. If there is a goal, and a vision for education, then understanding the ‘Who, What, When, Where, Why and How’ is the first step.

Who are our learners and teachers 10 years’ from now?

Not only must we consider formalised education from formative preschool years all the way through to the end of high school education, we must also consider the education that happens beyond this time. Those who embrace lifelong learning and recognise that learning can happen not just in formal settings but in practical and multiple methods and modes will be those best placed to inform the teaching and education systems of tomorrow.

We have systems recognising that alternative methods to educating young people are required to ensure that the skills the world requires are fostered in those people who show strength in areas of need for the future. Humans are born curious, and with the need to learn skills to survive, meaning humans are constantly eager to learn and challenge assumptions.

We must consider whether the current formalised approach to education is dampening our abilities to be curious and engaged learners over our lifetime. If we also consider that the changes to modern economies, moving from an industrial era to an evolving digital world, then we must note similar changes to modern workplaces, and learners needs.

We have the lowest numbers of young people turning to formalised teacher education, and if the trend continues, then our current method of delivering standardised industrialised education cannot be maintained. Whilst I don’t necessarily believe in some of the current methodology, what I do believe and what the evidence supports is that students learn better when they have positive and connected relationships with their teachers.

Positive relationships between students and teachers improve students’ emotional well-being partly because how teachers treat students affects how students treat each other.

Twenty-first-century teachers not only need to know curricula but also the relationship skills that will enhance learning and student outcomes. Effective teaching occurs within a broad social context and develops within students the abilities to regulate their emotions.

The ability to communicate in the complex classroom environments of requires constant information flow and adjustment, and a skilled teacher will regulate the flow of classroom discussion as it flows to maximise learning. Positive teacher-student relationships are central to the wellbeing of both students and teachers, and are the foundation for student learning.

Students who grow with strong relationships are more engaged and have stronger social skills. The teachers of the future must create challenging, constructive classrooms, treating students with respect, and setting high expectations for all students to maximise learning.

Students who feel safe to take risks in the classroom like, leading a peer group, speaking to the class, or applying a new problem-solving strategy improve their participation in learning.

Respectful and authentic communication skills could be considered as the most important relationship skill that teachers use. The development of mutual trust and respect are essential and can be seen in two-way exchanges between teachers and students. Without doubt, the ability to collaborate with peers is an important 21st-century skill and future teachers who wish to be effective must create rich learning opportunities that develop these skills.

No doubt the current challenges, more aptly described as a crisis in education, will have a material effect on what education will look like in 10 years’ time. Two-thirds of teachers say they are reconsidering their future in the profession due to workload, and three-quarters of teachers and school leaders feel stressed frequently or all the time at work.

Professional disengagement is highlighted by the startling figure quoted in recent news items that 70% of teachers are considering leaving the profession soon. The NSW Department of Education has identified that the number of unfilled positions has doubled since 2012. Adam Rorris found that in NSW alone, 11,000 teachers will need to be recruited before 2031.

What will we need to learn in 10 years’ time?

We must also consider what skills and knowledge learners may need to acquire in the future. I’ve often heard that the job roles of tomorrow have not even been considered yet, not even a thought bubble, and those children who are born in this year will be in industries that we haven’t even considered may exist. If we recognise that this may be the case, then perhaps we will consider that knowledge acquisition will look different in 10 years’ time as well.

Deliberation must be given to the types of skill building that are transferable across multiple industries regardless of the job title. 21st century skills are something that come up repeatedly and there is a recognition that we need to increase learners’ connection with tech.

If done well tech can aid the effectiveness of great teaching and engagement with content. The issue is that not only across Australia, but around the world, there is huge disparity between areas and geographic locations. Even in almost established nations, our wealthiest nations, like Australia, there is significant disadvantage and access to tech in remote areas.

When will we know what education needs for the future?

The Australian Curriculum states that ‘education plays a critical role in shaping the lives of young Australians and contributing to a democratic, equitable and just society that is prosperous, cohesive and culturally diverse’. Education provides both a basic academic education, as well as a common political and social philosophy, to all young people.

Changing social and political structures have driven socio-economic disadvantage and highlights the stark differences in govt funding priorities and this affects student learning and social outcomes. Hattie’s (2011) list of influences that effect student achievement reported that socio-economic influences have the potential to accelerate student achievement.

A determinant of education in 10 years’ time will be how education; across P-12, trade and training and tertiary will be funded. What we know about education today should be enough to lay out clear a direction for the next 10 years. The cold fact is that education policy and funding ebbs and flows, lurching from one govt to the next. I can only hope for the day when education, our society, will be valued as much as the next F-35, Bushmaster, or submarine.

Where will we be educated?

Neven’s Law describes the doubly exponential growth in processing power of computers. The moon landing was 53 years ago and the phones we carry in our pockets have 100,000 more processing power than the module that landed on the moon’s surface. Technology is continuing to drive innovation in way teachers and students engage in learning.

Blended teaching and remote learning have replaced the chalkboards that my parents grew up with. The thought of chalk dust makes me sniff and sneeze. Interactive whiteboards, Zoom and Teams provide schools with apps to design learning to engage 21st century learners. The pivots from remote learning to face-to-face teaching and other measures in response to the pandemic have expanded into virtual colleges and on-demand learning.

When applying Navan’s Law to the omnipresent WIFI, education in 10 years’ time will be accessed in everywhere. This change could mean that we have specialist teachers beaming in from all over the country to deliver the relevant content to our learners and our classrooms.

Pens and paper, replaced by the screens and devices of the future, more self-directed learning than ever before and perhaps peer tutors, rather than chalk and talk approaches of the past. Could this see the infiltration of AI into our classrooms, virtual classrooms and teachers?

Why are we considering past models need changing?

The announcement of the Preschool Reform Funding Agreement is an acknowledgment of the importance of early childhood education. This agreement will create the opportunity for women to work. It is curious, yet predictable that education, in this case increased funding to ‘improve preschool participation and outcomes’ is described in the language of productivity.

Research into how we learn drives change in pedagogy. The ‘Whole language’ approach to teaching reading is now so 80’s. Explicit teaching of phonics is the most recent approach.

I would offer that education is an economic commodity. The new technology of the industrial revolution introduced new learning. Nassim Talab suggests ‘Black Swan’ events such as the rise of the internet or the awful use of the first atomic bomb result in great change.

The event is improbable, unpredictable, has a massive effect and cause humans to construct meaning from the event. If one would consider the pandemic as a Black Swan event, then the changes to how we learn, where we learn and what we learn can be explained.

A democratic, equitable and just society that is prosperous, cohesive, and culturally diverse must value the work of educators. Education is the key to unlocking our future.

Rochelle Borton is the Director of EduInfluencers. From a single course to now hundreds, Rochelle is transforming the education industry one teacher at a time.