New Vision for Education: Availing the potential of technology

Having strong skills in areas such as languages, arts, mathematics and science is no longer enough to thrive in a rapidly evolving, technology-mediated world. Critical thinking, problem-solving, resilience, cooperation and curiosity are increasingly becoming fundamental skills.

In this context, the World Economic Forum has taken on a multi-year initiative – New Vision for Education – a report that examines the pressing issue of skills gap and explores ways to address these gap through technology. The organisation also tries to identify and define the skills needed in the 21st century in primary and secondary education. The report distilled the research into 16 skills in three broad categories: foundational literacies, competencies and character qualities. You can find the definitions of these skills here.

This study, focused on nearly 100 countries, reveals that too many students are still not getting the education they need to prosper in the 21st century, and countries are not finding enough of the skilled workers they need to compete.


The potential of technology to help close the skills gap

Numerous innovations in the education technology space are beginning to show potential in improving education and helping address skills gap. To help lower the cost and improve the quality of education, education technology is being used to:

  • Find creative solutions to fundamental challenges in many countries, such as a lack of well-trained teachers and broadly accessible technology infrastructure.
  • Make education available to a broader audience at a much lower cost or provide higher quality instruction at the same price.
  • Gain insight into how and what students learn in real time by taking advantage of the greater variety, volume and velocity of data.
  • Increase teacher productivity, freeing up valuable time from tasks such as grading and testing, which can be used for differentiated teaching of competencies and character qualities.
  • In addition, education technology can be deployed to develop 21st-century skills such as communication, creativity, persistence and collaboration, as is explored in the representative examples below.

Of course, technology is only one element in a portfolio of vital solutions that aim to close the 21st-century skills gap. These include strategies such as better teacher preparation, new modes of learning and wraparound services for struggling families. But when educators add education technology to the mix of potential solutions, we find they are most effective if applied within an integrated instructional system known as the closed loop. At the classroom level of the closed loop, educators create learning objectives, develop curricula and instructional strategies, deliver instruction, embed ongoing assessments, provide appropriate interventions based on student needs and track outcomes and learning.

To further strengthen the instructional system, the World Economic Forum identified a set of instructional and institutional resources and tools. Those include: personalized and adaptive content and curricula, open educational resources, communication and collaboration tools and interactive simulations and games. To read more click here.


System-wide priorities for stakeholders

However, in most places, education technology has been deployed only recently, with outcomes highly dependent on how well technology can be integrated holistically to address an individual country’s context.

In addition to operating at the level of the classroom and the school network, the closed loop also operates systemically – whether at the country, state or the district level. According to the World Economic Forum, to fulfil the promise of the closed loop it will require a multi-stakeholder approach involving not just policy-makers and educators, but also educational-technology providers and funds. These stakeholders can take a number of actions. When collaborating in an efficient and thoughtful way, the stakeholders can begin to bring the most effective technologies to more of the world’s students in an effort to address 21st-century skills gap.

To read the full report: http://widgets.weforum.org/nve-2015/