03 Mar 2016

New education trends: inspiration and thought-provoking questions

OECDMost of us need both inspirational and factual resources to support our work. Finding sources that deliver on both aspects can be challenging, however. The OECD’s latest report, Trends Shaping Education 2016, was a pleasant surprise. The report reflects on the potential impacts five overarching trends – globalisation, the future of the nation state, the rise of the city, the changing family, and technology – might have on education in the future. Like a good teacher, the report provides few answers but asks some intriguing questions.
 

Many of the developments looked at are familiar to most of us. By providing a good amount of facts mixed with hypotheses on the impact these developments may have on education, it manages to give some insights from a novel perspective that might prove useful when looking into new opportunities and drafting strategies.

Exploring the neighbourhood instead of flying to Paris

Increasing migration flows such as the recent refugee crisis in Europe impact the demographics of countries. As a result, internationalisation changes from being merely a phenomenon across borders into something that occurs equally within (national) borders. International educators are faced with the challenge of tapping into this resource at home and engage better with different local communities.

Migration patterns – domestic and international – moreover tend to impact urban areas more than rural areas, making cities generally more attractive places from an internationalisation perspective. A logical question that follows is how international education will reach and remain relevant in rural areas, where international aspects and cultures are often less present.

The ‘McDonaldsisation’ of education

One potential consequence of globalisation is the standardisation of education programmes across higher education institutions (HEIs) with little room for local aspects to be covered or considered in the curricula. Some might argue that this is the ultimate mainstreaming of internationalisation, while others question if it overlooks the needs of different student populations and teaches little in terms of intercultural understanding and skills. Coupled with an eroding identification with the nation state and a rise in identification with the global and city levels, the role of nation states in offering education may come into question. Will large public universities as a result seize to be the main education providers in the future?

Finding alternative funding sources

With public spending on other sectors – such as health care and pensions – of the welfare state increasing education may stand to lose. Ageing demographics can impact government financing available for education. Diversification of income streams may increasingly become a reality for HEIs. Finding new financial resources for (international) education or internationalising on meagre funds will likely become an integral aspect of the work of many professionals.

The changing role of educators

Education provision is also affected by developments in technology – the most fast-paced development identified in the report. Technology influences the delivery of education, the skill needs of those working in international education, and the role of the educators themselves as they are increasingly competing with other information providers such as social media. What information to trust, who to listen to and how we learn and tailor teaching while ensuring the privacy rights of our students are the central challenges education providers and professionals will face.

Hopefully these trends have inspired you and tickled your curiosity about the many interesting points raised in this report. The full OECD report Trends Shaping Education can be accessed for free online.
 
Anna-Malin is Policy Office at the EAIE.