Education is undergoing a historical moment. We may not notice the magnitude of the changes brought by the pandemic, but it's obvious that things are not going to be the same. Back to normal (we all know that “normal” is a relative term in and of itself) will not be back to the previous status quo. Most likely, we will all slide into a new normal.
To prepare member states for future developments in the educational system, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has designed four alternative scenarios that may become a reality soon. Granted, these are scenarios, as no one can accurately predict the future, but is it useful to see what the experts of a major international organization have to say about the evolution of schooling.
4 Scenarios for the new normal of education
These four alternative scenarios may help us prepare for the future by identifying possible threats and opportunities. So let’s look into the crystal ball and see what may soon happen in education.
In the first scenario, participation in formal education will increase, as more students will enroll in courses provided by educational institutions. International collaboration and technological progress will continue to increase the level of personalization in every student’s learning journey. Schooling structures and systems will remain; they might change, become more flexible, and adapt to the new contexts, but they will still be in place.
This extended schooling scenario seems a more prudent prediction. The current system is marginally affected and becomes available to more people who don’t have access to the schooling system at the moment.
According to this second scenario, the schooling systems that we have now will break down as societies become more and more involved in education. Learning will occur in more diverse, flexible, and privatized structures, especially in the higher education sector. Obviously, digital technology is a crucial driver for this change. It will be a disruptive force in the outsourcing process of schooling.
This scenario takes into consideration current trends and extrapolates their impact on the schooling system. For instance, Germany has a powerful dual education system that involves both schools and companies in vocational training. However, outsourcing education to private enterprises may increase the costs for both educational institutions and students without guaranteeing the best results.
Schools as learning hubs
Schools remain the main places for imparting and receiving knowledge, but diversity and experimentation will become the norm. Schools will “open their walls” and be more connected to their communities, boosting ever-changing types of education, civic engagement, and social innovation.
Technology will also be a key facilitator for the new learning hubs, as they become more open towards communities.
This is an exciting scenario in which civic involvement and democratic values blend with knowledge and meaningful experiences to benefit local communities. Perhaps it can be the solution for young people’s low interest in public and civic affairs.
Education takes place everywhere, anytime. There are no clear distinctions between formal and informal education, as they are no longer relevant. Society becomes the “power of the machine,” as citizens of all ages learn what they want, when they want, and where they want.
As education becomes so flexible and personalized, technology becomes a key educational tool. It’s already happening to a certain extent with remote learning. The place where a student learns or a teacher delivers the lesson is no longer an essential factor in education. Students don’t have to be in the classroom to learn something; they can do it from the comfort of their homes.
The common denominator of all four scenarios proposed by the OECD is, as we can see, technology. Perhaps the transformative force of technology will be surpassed only by people’s eagerness to embrace change, as mentalities evolve and people adopt different values.