Trends in Education and Learning

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These articles about trends in education and learning have caught our eye recently. We’ve grouped the articles below into a couple of different categories, and each speaks to what teachers might need to be informed about as we head into an uncertain future. 

The Science of Learning

This article suggests that what we understand as ‘knowledge’ is a stone age concept that harms our dealings with the modern world. The argument goes that the idea of knowledge is simplistic, and comes from a distant past in which the choice was knowledge or ignorance. This is now insufficient, and the author explores the idea that beliefs, supported by facts or not, matter more. A hard read, but interesting.

This article by Jihyun Lee (again from Aeon) looks at why most successful students often have no passion for school. Referencing her research of PISA results and questions that measure student attitudes towards school, Ms Lee found that there was no correlation between academic achievement (in the PISA test) and attitudes towards school. It appears that the variation comes from students’ belief in their own ability to complete tasks and solve problems, and that this is far more important than their perceptions of school.

From The World Economic Forum, 5 lessons from innovative schools. It briefly looks at initiatives and institutions that are doing interesting things in learning globally. They are:

  • Anji Play – low-cost play-based philosophy from Anji County, China.
  • South Tapiola High School – one of the best schools in Finland, with a focus on collaboration, entrepreneurship and active citizenship.
  • Green School – a focus on sustainability, leadership and stewardship of the environment with global aspirations.
  • Project Kakuma – free quality online education for refugees.
  • TEKY – Vietnam’s first STEAM academy, now with online bootcamps and courses as well.

Learning through play is well established in the modern learning landscape, as is the use of educational technology. However how these might intersect is a matter of hot debate. This article discusses how children might learn through purposeful play with technology, conducted in a guided and active approach such as project-based learning, in which students have choices to make about what, how and why they learn.

Education and Opportunity

In today’s Britain, where a person comes from is linked to their educational, social and financial status, and the problem’s getting worse. This article is a worthwhile read, with a good summary of factors that propagate inequality, highlighting how groups in at-risk areas (poorer coastal towns) are also at higher risk of job loss due to automation of work.

Talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not. Continuing with the theme of access to opportunity, this article explores why the world misses out on much-needed talent and ability. It’s largely due to skills and circumstances: capable people with huge ability who do not have the economic means, the stable family and the curious role models needed to grow curious minds. The solution is improved living conditions and access to education, and reduction of absolute poverty – challenges that are going to need confronting for some time yet.

In Singapore, 65 year olds are learning to code. Longer lifespans, a growing skills gap and a commitment to life-long learning mean that companies and businesses are partnering to invest in up-skilling, and it looks like Singapore is one economy that’s taking the lead in how these partnerships might work.

Next we have an interesting and much-needed way of measuring the success of universities beyond academic achievement and research publications: the positive impact they have on societies. The table assesses universities against the Sustainable Development Goals, with a focus on metrics such as academic freedom, the use of secure employment contracts and the share of senior female academic staff.

A really interesting revolution is taking place in the Edo State of Nigeria right now. Titled The Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation, or ‘EdoBEST’ the goal is to transform learning outcomes for 300,000 students across 1500 schools. 15,000 teachers are being re-trained with a focus on the big four essential teaching skills, supported by just a few specific but highly effective teaching techniques. The programme appears to be comprehensive and well supported, and it could become an excellent scalable model for other developing regions.

Learning for the Future

Here’s an interesting article from the World Economic Forum about why we need to revolutionise how we learn based on global trends around work, technology and the workforce of the future. In this article, the four trends that define the new paradigm are:

  • The rapid growth of the mobile workforce and thus mobile solutions for them.
  • Smartphone penetration rates have passed 30%, and this will only increase. Mobile micro-learning appears to be a trend that will only grow.
  • It’s no longer just about knowledge: skills are the new currency, and to develop these one needs experience and application. Several models are referenced, all with a base of project and experience-based learning.
  • The article states that by 2022, 54% of the workforce will require retraining or up-skilling.

The sum of all this is that we are transitioning to Digital Learning 2.0, in which engagement with technology shifts from the passive role such as watching expert knowledge videos to active engagement: asking questions, reflecting, sharing, critiquing. The article states that “Digital Learning 2.0 will need to be MPPG – mobile-first, participatory, personalized and group-based.“, providing food for thought for schools, parents, adults needing to retrain and potential providers of these services.

This article neatly encapsulates many of the issues around how education is fundamentally changing, why it’s happening, and what needs to happen further. It references the 4th Industrial Revolution, the constantly evolving work landscape, the need to retrain and up-skill constantly and details major and much-needed systemic changes. These include a transition to a learning partnership model between business and education institutions, a globally-oriented learning perspective, private and public investment in workforce retraining and the need for philosophy and ethics in a new wave of technology. Useful recommendations for students and parents are provided, and overall this is an excellent reference for anyone interested not in predictions, but strategies to prepare for the future.

Here’s an excellent resource from The Exponential View by Azeem Azhar. It’s a curriculum positioned at the intersection of AI, business and society, with topics ranging from big ideas to economics to the future of work to politics to biology. It’s a comprehensive resource and knowledge bank, and highly recommended if you’d like to dig deeper into this area.

Challenges in Education

This article from the World Economic Forum examines why business as usual is not going to solve the challenges of access to education and inequality in learning. The article stems from the Sustainable Development Goal for Education (SDG4), and lists challenges that are likely to still exist in 2030 based on current trends, including that one in six children will still be out of school and six in 10 will not complete secondary education. Ten major points of concern are identified, including that one in four countries are falling short in commitments to allocate 4% of GDP and 15% of the annual budget to education spending. Thought provoking.

Is technology key to improving education, or an expensive distraction? This report examines how technology can be a positive disruptor in health and education, but faces significant challenges. It discusses the potential and pitfalls of deploying technology to address educational inequalities, and examines what strategic decisions need to be made, how technology is best used and how stakeholders are best engaged. It strikes a cautionary note, emphasising that the technology must be actually effective, and that the highlighted five visions and four principles for positive disruption are key.

An emerging challenge that education systems are facing globally is how school shutdowns might set back learning for years to come for some. In areas of high infection or disruption due to lockdowns, poor access to education and technology and financial and family stress due to lost income, the resulting trauma can affect students for years. The poor and rural are more likely to be more at risk, with the digital divide ever more evident, in this case the United States.

From the Fringes

To finish, a quick look at a few articles that have raised eyebrows.

1. Using blockchain to stop officials from stealing school lunches – public procurement contracts are vulnerable to corruption, and examples include schools that are charged far more for lunches than their actual cost, with officials pocketing the difference. Blockchain technology allows for transparent, tamper-proof transactions to take place, eliminating the possibility of corruption and increasing governmental efficiency.

2. Brainwave detecting headbands for students at a school in China – this article is a year old, but still worth sharing. The bands measure brain activity and ‘scores’ students with the highest (apparent) concentration levels. The company responsible has attracted millions in investment and signed an export deal, so a market apparently exists.

3. Facial recognition in action in a Chinese school – it’s not widespread, but being trialed, and we’ve written about this before. I should state that the same technology is being trialed in The United States to prevent school shootings there.

4. A school in the United States designed to deter school shootings – curved walls, short lockers and a special locking system at a cost of 48 million dollars. The students might also want to carry bullet-proof backpacks just in case.

5. Some South Korean academics are naming their own and others’ children as co-authors on research papers, even though they made no contribution to the research. The purpose is to apparently give the wealthy and well connected preferential access to top universities, in a reflection of the incredible amount of competition to achieve these places.

The research conducted and insights gained during the writing of this article have inspired the Indigo Schools Framework, the details of which can found in the Primer on our Resources Page. Send us an email at or complete the form below if you’d like to learn more about how the Indigo Schools Framework can be successfully applied within your school. Also be sure to follow us on Facebook and Linkedin for our latest updates.

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