Predictions for what the future will be like are almost always ambiguous and uncertain since we only have our current scenarios to base our projections on. For instance, writers in the 1950s had imagined the 21st century to encompass a slurry of awe-inspiring wonders, such as swarms of flying cars, sentient robots, and more, along with the colonisation of planets, brought on by the meteoric revolutionisation of the automobile and aeronautics industries. Such a future has definitely not come to life yet, in today’s world; however, the astonishing rise in internet usage and smartphone consumption that we witness today was equally inconceivable at the time. Similarly, predictions for the 22nd century can be just as incredulous and implausible right now, based off of all that we do know, currently. Instead, a more practical approach would be to take a close look at some of the established assumptions and trends in the industry that may develop over the course of the century.
A safe assumption to base our projections on for the future of the education industry is the ultimate goal that it has had, and continues to have. It can be said with utmost certainty that the primary aim of imparting education is to help a person become a productive member of society. The path to doing that would involve working on developing their intellectual and emotional capabilities to reach that aim of productiveness.
Current global trends
The next step to assess how the industry would look 100 years down the line would be to take into account the changes that are currently taking place in society. The most important change that has been witnessed is that people are living much longer than they did 100 years ago. While the average lifespan used to be 45 years in the 19th century, in the 21st century, most people usually live up to 85 years of age, which is almost double of what it was, up until just 2 decades ago. This indicates that people will be working for a considerably longer part of their lives, and might also hold a range of jobs and positions across various industries during the course of their careers.
Technology has been an incredibly key factor responsible for several of the current global trends we observe today. It is not only an integral part of almost every organisation, but has also helped automate several routine jobs, such as secretarial work, data entry, standard report writing, and more, which were earlier carried out manually, by human beings. With the growth of this automation, it can be predicted that these jobs would eventually cease to exist, in every organisation in the world. However, jobs that require creativity, experience, and an inherent human aspect, such as public relations or software programming, can never be replaced by technology. It is only the nature and nuances of such jobs that might change, due to the advancement in technology.
In fact, just a few years back, social media was never an active part of strategies envisioned by PR professionals. Today, however, it has become one of the most important aspects of a brand’s strategy, and it is a must for industry professionals to be equipped to use it effectively. It is extremely vital for professionals in such fields to keep updating their skills and capabilities through online and offline sources, peers, and their own experience, to learn more, and stay relevant in the industry. Hence, the right personal capabilities within the formal education system must also be developed to ensure they are able to learn well, throughout their lives.
What education may look like in the 22nd century
After taking into account the aforementioned basic assumptions, along with the current global trends, a better prediction can be made regarding what the education industry will look like in the 22nd century.
The era of Intellectual Based Learning
Every student undergoes growth and development at different speeds. For example, a 9-year child old might be exceptionally good at mathematics, understanding complex topics usually taught in higher classes, with ease. On the other hand, 16-year old learning the same advanced topics might find them hard to cope with. In the future, it is possible that age-based learning is eliminated altogether, and people are assigned classes based on their intellectual capacity, rather than their age. In such a scenario, the same class could consist of a 10-year-old student and a 15-year-old one, because of their individual rates of learning and development.
Individual Learning Paths
In line with the earlier trend, every student would also follow their own path in terms of their graduation. Instead of common exams conducted for all students, each of them, would instead, have to earn the credentials to showcase his or her mastery in a specific area, in tune with their individual aptitudes. In such a scenario, a student who aspires to be a writer can possess a “Level 10 credential in English literature” and only a “Level 5 credential in Mathematics”. New credentials, however, will be possible to be earned throughout their careers. This will even help employers to make better decisions on whom to hire, based on the actual skills of the candidate, and not a common, unidimensional education credential that every one of them have received.
Interactive learning will also take centre stage in the 22nd century. The teacher will cease to be the king of the classroom, and instead, play the role of a holistic facilitator for learning. As such, he or she will encourage and promote collaborative and interactive discussions, debates, and thought exercises in the classroom, not just with teachers, but more importantly, among peers, to promote better learning.
End of Fixed School Timings
With the advancements in technology that are taking place every day, education may soon cease to be something that happens for a fixed amount of time within the confines of 4 walls. By utilising technology and tools like smartphones, tablets, and more, students will be able to grasp knowledge from anywhere and at any time.
Language has long ceased to be a barrier to learning, ever since the development of various kinds of the translation software. Students can, today, work with like-minded individuals from all over the globe, making use of advanced communication channels, to get a global perspective of their education. In fact, students may one day, even be able to project three-dimensional holograms of themselves attending classes in other countries, to learn better and faster.
New Pedagogy for Imparting Education
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are two incredibly promising forms of technology, which were introduced to the world to enhance the gaming experience. However, they both have vast, untapped potential, for use in the field of education, as well. Leveraging the same will not only expand the very horizons and possibilities of learning, but also enable students to experience the lessons they are learning, and therefore, have a significantly stronger understanding of it. For instance, a zoology class where students can actually witness the habits of a tiger instead of just reading about them from books or watching videos can play a key role in furthering their knowledge.
Although it is quite an old concept, gamification still has a lot of opportunities for usage in the education system. It is an excellent, interactive method for sparking interest and inspiring students, to elevate their understanding of a topic. To state an example, a student can play as a merchant in a game like Monopoly to easily understand the fundamental laws of supply and demand.
Data Analytics has already gained immense popularity in many industries, with its potential in the education sector having become apparent as well. However, its implementation and incorporation in the segment would require further insights and a precise focus. Through the analysis of data collected from their activities, students will be able to accurately pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses that they need to focus on. This, in turn, would allow them to be intricately involved in the progress of their education, and provide enhanced control and oversight regarding how their skill sets are developed.
Despite all of this, the future could very well turn out to be completely different from the picture painted above. We could be living in a world where robots do all of our work, and new knowledge is gained by having data downloaded directly onto chips lodged in our brains! However, irrespective of whatever happens in the next 100 years, one thing is certain; the education system that exists today will share very little in common with it!
(The writer is Managing Director, The Shahani Group)