A survey by the Economist magazine in the UK notes that the rapid development of digital technology and the globalised nature of economic systems are creating an entirely new set of educational challenges to which the world needs to adapt. (http://educatingforthefuture.economist.com/)
In the worldwide survey, South Africa achieved 23rd position out of 35 countries. SA was 17th in the Education Policy Environment category, 16th in its ability to prepare young people for the future, but scored poorly (28th) in the Teaching Environment category, citing adverse teaching conditions for both teachers and pupils.
Alan Rehbock, head of sales, Sangari Education, a provider of educational solutions to schools and universities and the company managing the Land Rover 4×4, Jaguar Primary Schools and F1 in Schools Challenges, said that the survey confirms Sangari’s focus.
“While SA achieved improved rankings in some categories, teachers and students are faced with challenges in the teaching environment. Our solutions address some of these issues as well as enhancing teacher skills by providing learning content that makes it easier for teachers to present lessons and for pupils to both learn and participate in classes. As a consequence, this raises pupils’ grades,” he said.
The survey, ‘The Worldwide Educating for the Future Index’, found that workers of the future will need to master a suite of adaptable interpersonal, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, and navigate an increasingly digital and automated world.
The main findings are:
- Too many governments are not doing enough to prepare millions of young people for coming seismic changes in work and life.
- Crucial areas such as project-based learning and global citizenship are being widely ignored. It is not enough to simply teach traditional subjects well. Education systems need to adopt new approaches that help students learn skills such as critical thinking.
- Policy needs to be complemented by a pool of talented teachers well-equipped to guide students in gaining future skills.
- Classroom walls must be broken down. Education must not stop when students step out of the classroom. Teachers and parents need to equip students with the skills and attitudes to apply academic concepts to the outside world. They must see learning as an organic process, not one confined to traditional teaching environments.
- Pay for teachers and adequate funding for education are important, but money is not a panacea. There is a link between monetary inputs into education systems and success. The research suggests that governments could stand to devote more resources to cultivating teaching, raising salaries, teacher profiles and prestige relating to the profession. Some lower-income economies, for example, spend a far higher share of their GDP on education than rich economies.
The report argues that today’s standard educational model was created for the industrial age. A new educational model is needed to prepare the world’s students for the demands and challenges of the information and innovation age. Rapidly evolving technologies, including digitisation, automation and machine learning, are going to disrupt the workplace in untold and dramatic ways.
Whole employment sectors are likely to disappear, with others hopefully created. Students, workers and entire economies will compete across global borders for the best education, jobs and growth; all three will need to be nimble, flexible and dynamic, ready to recognise and respond to emerging trends swiftly. Other challenges will include environmental change, urbanisation, migration and demographic shifts.
The report adds: “The world’s education systems are currently not doing a good job of preparing our young for such a future. Some are getting many things right, including a strategic appreciation of what skills they will need: problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, initiative, communication, drive and curiosity, all founded on a core of key competences in reading and STEM subjects. Some governments are making real progress in areas such as curriculum and assessment frameworks that support the learning of these skills, along with the crucial input of highly-skilled, well-trained and motivated teachers.”
“In the best cases, they are introducing teaching methods such as project-based and civic education, and encouraging collaboration with other students and industry. Concepts introduced inside the classroom are being applied to the world outside. Digital skills that allow students to use technology creatively and critically are also being developed. The best schools draw on the resources of open and free societies that encourage debate and harness innovation.”
“Most, however, have much to do to meet these challenges. In some cases, extra work in key areas will pay large dividends; in others, large-scale overhauls of failing education systems are needed. At stake are the future lives of many millions of young people, and the competitiveness of entire economies. The index has been designed to reflect these relative performances, and to provide both a guide and a call to arms for policymakers. It recognises the key inputs into an education system rather than exam-like outputs, and emphasises the differences between industrial-era education systems and those needed to meet the challenges of the future.”
1. Overall Results (Scores out of 100)
South Africa was 23rd out of 35 countries in the category “Measuring Teaching Trends Geared for the Future”, ahead of Israel, Russia, India, China and Iran (35th). The first three places were New Zealand, Canada and Finland respectively.
2. Education Policy Environment (Scores out of 100)
In the category “Government Policy Towards Education”, South Africa was categorised as being a “Good Environment” in position 17, one after the US in 16th position. South Africa was also ahead of Russia (20th), Spain (21st), Hong Kong (22nd) Italy (23rd), China (27th), Israel (29th) and India (30th).
3. Teaching Environment (Scores out of 100)
In the ‘Teaching Environment’ category, South Africa was 28th out of 35 countries, citing poor salaries, too easy entrance for teachers, lack of respect for teachers and poor infrastructure as some of the challenges teachers face. The salaries of SA teachers was rated 25th out of 35 countries, with Germany, Japan and South Korea rated in the top three respectively.
4. Government Expenditure as a % of GDP
SA was rated 13th based in the ‘Government Expenditure on Post-Secondary Education Category’, indexed as a % of GDP.
5. Socio-Economic Environment (Score out of 100)
In the category ‘Recognising the Correlation Between a Generally Open Society and Preparing its Younger Generations for the Challenges of a Changing Future’, SA was 16th.