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Lucubrate Magazine, March 26th, 2023
Education helps people develop a reliable compass to navigate a complex world. To educators and education policymakers, this brings challenges. How can they educate learners for jobs that have yet to be created, to use technologies that have yet to be invented, or to solve social problems we cannot yet imagine? The future comes with surprises.
Innovation for Learning and Distribution of Knowledge and Wealth
Education has seen massive expansion over the years with unprecedented growth in participation and attainment levels. Education systems have developed into significant economic growth and prosperity engines, nation and community building, and social progress. Education shapes our world by developing the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values on which societies rely, forging social cohesion and preparing people to become and remain competent workers and active citizens. Education systems foster democracy and the transformation to innovation-oriented knowledge societies.
At the same time, there is a – real or perceived – disconnect between the growth imperative and the limited resources of our planet; between the financial economy and the real economy; between the wealthy and the poor; between the concept of our gross domestic product and the well-being of people; between technology and social needs; and between governance and political representation. Education is not responsible for all this, but the role that people’s knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values can play should not be underestimated. Our economies are shifting towards regional production hubs, linked together by global chains of information and goods, but always concentrated where comparative advantage can be built and renewed. This makes the distribution of knowledge and wealth crucial and intimately tied to the distribution of educational opportunities.
Learning for an Uncertain Future
Whether they come in the form of gradually evolving trends or abrupt systemic shocks, changes reshape the world and the preoccupations and belief systems of the people and communities. As a result, they also redefine expectations towards education and affect how learning is organised. Education is no longer just about teaching learners something but about helping them develop a reliable compass and the tools to navigate a complex, volatile, and uncertain world confidently. Success in education today is about identity, agency (i.e. the capacity to set a goal, reflect and act responsibly to effect change), values, building curiosity, and mobilising cognitive, social, and emotional resources to contribute actively to society.
Education is at a crossroads, with humanity now facing mega-challenges like climate change, the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and innovative technologies, mass migration and global taxation. It is crucial to find ways to sustain innovation in education and reaffirm that investment in education is an investment in the future of prosperity and the well-being of society.
In this context, lifelong learning has become an expectation for all. It will enable individuals, communities, organisations, and organisations to translate opportunities into an active sense of agency necessary to ensure a good life. The shift from qualification-oriented attainment up front to a new distribution of learning and skills development over the lifespan is a new reality. This will create significant public policy challenges, requiring the development of new partnerships to support learning with innovative arrangements on both the supply and demand sides.
Focus on Innovation of Education
When education systems come under increased pressure, they sometimes need more space for experimentation and innovation and return to what worked in the past. The reasons for that are many, including uncertainty about who will benefit from reforms and to what extent. This extends to questions about costs, and who is responsible for them, and there is also fear of the potential loss of advantages. Even minor reforms can involve massive resource reallocations and touch millions of lives.
Nevertheless, the case for innovation in education is evident. The number of education systems that set guidelines or standards at the national level and give freedom to educational institutions or local authorities to shape their responses is increasing. This provides opportunities for greater educational innovativeness in improving outcomes, cost-efficiency, and equity. In this context, it is essential to be rigorous and focus on innovation for learning informed by learning science.
A robust knowledge system informed by scientific research, and driven by data and analysis, is essential to developing the evidence base for policy and guiding innovation and experimentation. At the same time, for innovation and experimentation to be valuable, systems need to build the capacity to learn from them, whether successes or failures. This is a space where international collaboration can bring in value-added.
Innovation for Learning is the Future
Education is no longer just about teaching learners something but about helping them develop a reliable compass and the tools to navigate a complex, volatile, and uncertain world confidently.
Successful innovations depend on a collaborative effort from all actors and stakeholders, both inside and outside the system, united by a convincing narrative and a sense of purpose. But there is a need for a more sophisticated understanding of how innovation arises in education. This seems an essential space for multilateral collaboration.
Building the future of edcation, OECD 2022
Lucubrate Magazine March 2023
The illustration on the top of the article: Adobe Stock