The trends shaping the future of education

by Tracey Burns and Rebecca Lavinson
Directorate for Education and Skills

Did you ever wonder if education has a role to play in stemming the advance of diseases such as diabetes and dementia? Or what the impact of changing family structures might be on our children, schools, and communities? Or whether new technologies are fundamentally changing the way students think and learn?

The OECD’s work on Trends Shaping Education looks at major social, demographic, economic and technological trends affecting the future of education. The newest edition of the publication will be released on 18 January . Here’s a sneak peak.

Are cities the new countries? This provocative chapter looks at our increasingly urban lives and the impact this has on education. Across all OECD countries, the percentage of the population living in urban areas has grown from 60% in 1960 to around 80% in 2013. This number is only forecast to increase, with some countries expected to become almost entirely urban by 2050.

Some have argued that cities are now the most relevant level of governance, small enough to react swiftly and responsively to issues and large enough to hold economic and political power. And indeed city life is distinctive, to the extent that cities in two very different countries, such as New York City and Shanghai, will tend to have more in common with each other than with the rural communities in their own country.

Looking for examples? A number of trends stand out: citizens are becoming more engaged in the running of their cities, facilitated by the potential of new technologies and social networks. Examples include Occupy Wall Street, which spread across more than 1,500 cities with the help of social media. Fix My Street, an application which allows residents to use an online map to report street problems and needed repairs, has spread in one form or another to over 16 OECD countries. Similar technologies exist for a wide variety of other services. Are we witnessing the “uberisation” of our economies, a process where the consumer (and citizen) can bypass traditional service providers and have more control over what they want, and when they get it?

Another trend is the rise of smart transportation. Since 1863, when London opened the first metro system, there has been a steady increase numbers and forms of public transportation. There is now an emphasis on services that reduce pollution and increase flexibility, such as electric car and bike-sharing. Launched in Copenhagen in 1995, bike-sharing has since spread to 676 cities worldwide, and there are now more bike-sharing systems than metro systems. Currently, China hosts the largest bike share programme in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, which supplies over 80,000 bikes. This trend illustrates the innovation potential of urban areas, but it also underlines the importance of reducing pollution to sustain liveable environments.

Education can and does play a role in all of this, teaching civic literacy, providing the skills needed for community engagement, and supporting creativity and innovation throughout the lifespan. Designing liveable urban spaces and encouraging smart transport in increasingly dense cities will require urban planners and engineers, as well as the research and innovation hubs needed to fuel their work. And of course schools will continue to be responsible for ensuring the safety of students, especially those in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Education can and should be prepared to adjust and grow along with urban environments. The lessons students are taught in school will carry forward into their communities, giving schools and universities a direct path to positively impact their immediate surroundings.

Urbanisation is a topic that links global, national, city and family levels trends together alongside technology. How can technological developments facilitate citizen engagement? How do cities encourage international cooperation? What role should education play in these arenas?
Want to know more? Then keep an eye out for the soon to be released 2016 edition of Trends Shaping Education. In addition to cities, other chapters examine global trends such as increasing migration and climate change, national trends on government spending in health and pensions, familial trends of child well-being as well as technological trends. Ultimately, we would like the users of this publication to come away asking “How might this trend influence education, now or in the next 10 years?” The future of our education systems depends on it.

Trends Shaping Education 2016
Trends Shaping Education Urban Spotlight
Governing the City (2015)
Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI)
Photo credit: Trends Fashion Marketing Contemporary Trending Concept @Shutterstock 

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