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The COVID pandemic forced major changes in education, some of which will endure.

Over the next three decades, education will start younger in many nations than today.  Education outside the home for 3-5 year olds increased by 10% to 85% in OECD nations in the decade to 2016.  This will be driven by two-career parents, and by research showing how important early learning is to later success.

School and college is all about preparing a new generation for their own future. In many cases, we will be educating for jobs that have yet to be invented, but most teaching is locked into the past, training for tasks that no longer exist. 

The absurdity of exams which require people to write ink onto paper

Take examinations: how absurd to force young people to scribe indelible symbols onto pieces of paper, and to lock them into rooms without access to their digital brains.

Cambridge University is considering allowing students to write exam papers on laptops, partly because examiners can’t read their terrible handwriting.

Many other Universities have already started giving permission to write exams answers on computers if people have a disability which means that writing is difficult or impossible.  

Yet handwriting in exams will still be the dominant mechanism for proving student knowledge by the year 2030 in almost every part of the world. Work means using keyboards, not pen and ink.

The whole basis of education will be questioned. For example, what you can remember is now less important.

What really counts is understanding how to make sense of streams of data, picking out patterns, seeing context, and knowing what sources to trust. Skills that really matter are: search / collate / interpret / analyse / summarise / conclude / decide. Of course we do need memory too, on which we base all experience, but not in order to regurgitate facts.

Radical change to teaching methods will be needed

Classroom teaching has hardly changed in 50 years, apart from the introduction of digital whiteboards, slides, and use of personal devices in class.  As we have seen, the wiring of brains of young people are being profoundly altered by digital tech, and with that, the ability to concentrate on learning, the ability to reflect.

60% of 18-34 year olds in America think that 4 year college education offers bad value for money, and Universities have seen 6 years of falling enrollments.

In lectures with 70 or more students, 51% complain they can’t hear what is said, 41% find it hard to read what is on the screen, 34% are distracted by noise outside, 50% are distracted by their digital devices, and 45% are distracted by what their neighbors are up to on their own devices.

Expect rapid expansion of new educational tools, including short, interactive video, designed to fit the curriculum.  But the basics of communication will also need to be fixed.

In education, one of the worst crimes has been plagiarism: where a student copies paragraphs from another source.

But in business, if an executive has to assemble a report very rapidly, about an area they know little about, the issue is not whether the whole report is original, but whether that report is accurate and useful.  Expect educational skill teaching to adjust to this reality.

Tougher rules for schooling

Expect a return to single-sex schools in many areas where co­education has resulted in tens of thousands of boys dropping out. Expect persuasive arguments that single-sex education for both sexes means sharper concentration and fewer distractions or showing off, especially with the age of puberty falling to eight or less in some girls. 

Expect a complete rethink about punishment and discipline, with recognition that a no-touch policy isn’t working in many nations. In many schools, the playground culture can be threatening, bullying and very violent,  not only to pupils but also to staff. 

A high percentage of teachers in state-funded schools across the UK have been threatened with violence or attacked at school, while pupil stabbings and shootings outside school have become far more common in inner city areas, linked to turf wars, drugs and gangs. Expect strident calls for teachers to be able to teach without fear of attack by pupils or parents. 

Expect greater powers to suspend or expel pupils for antisocial or violent behaviour. Expect growing expenditure on special needs schools for the most disruptive pupils.

Despite the trend to try to integrate the worst behaved with the best behaved, most schools will not be able to keep their most disruptive pupils, as emphasis grows on getting results. Expect continued ghettoisation, with people choosing a state school in a ‘nice area’ and then working out which home to buy nearby.

Future of universities – big shift to Asia

University education will be dominated globally by India and China, who already each produce more high-quality graduates in many disciplines than the rest of the world together.

Despite this, many of the best Asian students will head for top European or American Universities, to broaden horizons and forge networks.

Free access to lecture videos – so what are you selling?

All universities will be faced with a huge dilemma – along with every business school. Do they record lectures by professors and other faculty? And, if so, do they place those lectures online for students on the closed university intranet, or make them publicly available? And if they do go down this route, will anyone still want to attend the physical lecture?

Universities like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have recorded lectures for 15 years, giving them away online for free, and others will follow.

I have been doing the same for two decades.

Some business school professors fear that their material will be ‘stolen’, but experience shows that free online access makes business sense as well as being ‘right’ to do.

As a result, we will seeing vast growth in quality and range of free education, available online in every nation. Of course it will put extra pressure on any lecturer who never alters material.

The above will be a great challenge for paid distance-learning courses, offering password accesss to videos and course materials, video tutorials, plus someone to mark essays, and perhaps a residential week or two.

As we have seen, people want to breathe the same air, and learn from others in groups. Group experiences have great power to change people profoundly, especially when a group is together for a year or more of study. So physical tutorials, workshops, seminars and lectures will continue to be important.

Videos are great for information but useless at transformation. Online videos are no substitute for a shared learning experience in the classroom.  

Universities and business schools will focus increasingly on personal transformation, interactive learning, rather than groups just listening to experts, and on building educational tribes, to survive.

Education gets longer (and longer, and longer)

Despite growth of informal online education, most people will spend even more time in formal education by 2030. We have already seen how parents are hot-housing their children from early years, while job markets are so competitive that students are forced into second or third degrees. In many cases it is because their first degree was useless for the workplace.

However, most first, second or third degrees (including MBAs) are poor substitutes for a year or two in a stretching business.

And as the cost of degrees soars, with less government subsidy, even more people in developed nations will question the value of a degree. Four-year college degrees in may costs up to $160,000 in the US, including food and accommodation, but the real cost is more than doubled by losing four years’ earnings. 

In the UK, government grants hardly exist, while student debt has soared – to the point where, as we have seen, 10% of female students are selling their bodies for sex, pole dancing, escort work or stripping off in front of webcams, to survive.

This is hardly a sign of a civilized society.  Expect a policy rethink.

Countries like South Korea and Malaysia will rapidly expand engineering and biotechnology courses, reflecting strong government commitment to expand industries in these areas.

Numbers of students for courses such as music technology or anthropology will fall rapidly in countries like the UK, as more statistics show disastrous employment records for post-grads.

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