In twenty-seventeen, the research division of The Economist Group published a study (commissioned by The Yidan Prize Foundation) on the “effectiveness of education systems in preparing students for the demands of work and life in a rapidly changing landscape.”
The Worldwide Educating for the Future Index measures innovation in education and it provides a catchy list of skills that current students need to flourish in the world: (1) interdisciplinary, (2) creative and analytical, (3) entrepreneurial, (4) leadership, (5) digital and technical skills, as well as (6) global awareness and civic education.
The list of top performers (in ‘Best environment’ category) come as no surprise. New Zealand, which comes first, has implimented forward-looking reforms in the past decade or so, and most recently abolished standardised testing; Canada, the second, is good at delivering skills for learning and resilience so effectively; and Finland, the third, has the most innovative education system (thinking here of the Nokia shock) – followed by Switzerland, Singapore, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, and the Netherlands.
What these countries have in common, if you ask me, is successful implementation of a system-wide strategy for change.
There are six main findings presented in the study, all of which are important for reflection:
- Too many governments are not doing enough to prepare millions of young people for seismic changes in work and life.
- Crucial areas such as project-based learning and global citizenship are being widely ignored.
- Policy needs to be complemented by a pool of talented teachers well-equipped to guide students in gaining future skills.
- Classrooom walls must be broken down.
- Pay for teachers and adequate funding for education are important, but money is not a panacea.
- A holistic and future-ready education system is inexitricably linked with societal openness and tolerance.
The future-skills combined, which are the centre of the index, are a benchmark for lifelong learning and adaptability. Systems that get them right will surely lead communities to enjoy true education.
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