Opinion: Preparing today’s kids for success tomorrow

by Mei Lin Low24 Jun 2016

When my kids ask me what I do for a living, I often tell them I spend a big part of my time thinking about the future, specifically, what essential skills the students of today will need to succeed in their future workplace.

It’s no secret. We are now living in the most interconnected time in human history. Currently 40% of the world’s population – almost three billion people – are online. In fact, connected devices will outnumber humans six to one by 2020.

The widespread availability and rapid advances in digital technology are causing changes to work, not seen since the industrial revolution. A recent study by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand suggests 60% of Australian jobs are at risk of automation in the next 20 years.

Students set to enter the workforce in five, ten, even fifteen years from now, are likely to have several different careers ahead of them compared to previous ‘job for life’ generations. Many will also choose to be self-employed, or seek roles that offer more flexible working options.

With jobs and even entire industries set to change or disappear, it’s clear that a more adaptable workforce will be needed. This will mean relooking at what we teach students today to ensure they will succeed tomorrow – an idea supported by the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

More responsive and personalised education pathways may be required to meet the demands of a workforce that must be resilient and more adaptable. In a world where multiple vocations are expected to be the new normal, where computers will do jobs previously done by people, we will need a more rounded approach to learning.

Teaching entrepreneurial and life skills like innovation, teamwork, collaboration, problem solving and communication skills will be as important as academic qualifications.

At Polycom, where we can really add value is to ensure the technologies and tools we are creating today will support the rapid pace of change taking place inside the classroom. To help us understand what Australian and New Zealand (ANZ) educators need to succeed in the classroom of the future, we recently undertook a 2025 Education Technology Innovation Survey.

Over 700 educators from Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) from a diverse range of job roles responded – the majority being teachers and principals, and 90% above the age of 30. Outlined below are some of the key findings:
 

1. Education Accessibility: More Investment Needed

For educators within ANZ, a big concern was the accessibility of education, especially in remote areas. For example, 40% of educators believe parents and students alike are demanding more mobile and remote access to services. While respondents are confident of technology progressing to the point where online and interactive learning is possible, there is an expectation of more investment in education to ensure it is easily accessible to those who want or require it.
Currently, 58% feel the Government is not keeping up with education innovation. Respondents also believe that future education models will likely come from educators themselves rather than the Government or private sector. And the next sector for investment will be Virtual Learning Environments (VLE).
 

2. Curriculum Catch Up: Improving Quality of Teachers versus Personalised and Contextual Learning

The largest inhibitor for the future of education is seen as the curriculum not keeping pace with future workforce needs. However, when it comes to potential solutions, there was a difference of opinion. With deregulation and revised compliance standards, more than one quarter (27%) of those surveyed think improving the quality of teacher-learning should be the primary focus. Another quarter (23%) felt the priority should be on personalised and contextual learning, opting for a more student centric approach.
 

3. Technology in the Classroom: Laptop versus Real Time Collaboration from Anywhere

The majority, 51%, feel that we are not maximising the potential of technology to support meaningful learning in the classroom. Laptops and in-classroom learning are the ways in which students engaged with material and content in 2015. Fast forward to 2025 and educators believe real-time video collaboration and mobile devices will be the main ways students engage with content and material, and it is all educators – principals, teachers and assistants – driving this change.
 

4. Delivery of Education: Teachers Collaborating with Industry Experts

Respondents believe teachers and lecturers are the best ways to deliver education in 2015, but they feel that by 2025 the industry experts and online learning consortiums will take over. With the aid of technology by 2025 there will be greater collaboration between schools and corporations as well as more defined career pathways.
 

Education in 2025

It’s clear from these findings that while the future holds uncertainty, the next decade will be an exciting time to be involved in education. As an industry we will go through our own workplace transformation. The way in which we learn, teach and collaborate as education professionals is set to change significantly – it has to if we are to succeed in supporting the educational requirements of our future workforce. Both Government and private sector will also play significant roles in driving this change, with support from workers at every level.

As the findings indicate, there’s no denying that the ability to deliver accessible education for all – that is meaningful and relevant to the modern workplace – will be vital. From our perspective, having access to the right technology alone is not enough. It is essential these technologies are fully integrated into teaching methodologies and learning environments, both physical and virtual, to unleash their true educational value. This will ensure our students are equipped with the skills and knowledge they will need to thrive in the workforce of the future.
 

Mei Lin Low, Director at Polycom Asia Pacific for Education and Healthcare Industries, is a technologist and advocate for business transformation in industries, including Education and Healthcare, through video, voice and collaboration tools.
 

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