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Understanding Education 2030

Author: Janet Fletcher, Director of Learning, Tyndale Christian School
Published: April 2019

As classroom teachers we don’t always have time to read the strategic documents that are shaping the narrative of education and influencing the thinking of academics, politicians, ACARA, Gonski 2.0 and our state education and assessment boards.

The position paper The Future of Education and Skills: Education 2030 is such a document.  It was authored by Andreas Schleicher, Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills, at the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development).

The OECD boasts 80 member nations, including Australia, and aims to, ‘promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.’  

Education reform is one way in which that aim is advanced.  The PISA testing programme and the ranking tables that follow the testing, are perhaps the best-known face of the OECD in education.  There is much popular debate around the PISA testing, in particular the value of the testing and the political capital that can be gained from a country’s position in the ranking tables.  Australia’s slipping rank on the tables since they began in 2000 featured prominently in the Gonski findings, along with calls to action to move Australia further up the international rankings. 

The OECD do more than test.  They interpret data, compare countries schooling systems and they recommend direction in education at the highest level of influence. 

The Future of Education and Skills project 2030, of which this position paper is a product, is about future proofing education by addressing two questions:

  • What knowledge, skills, attitudes and values will today's students need to thrive and shape their world? 
  • How can instructional systems develop these knowledge, skills attitudes and values effectively?’                          

                                                       Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills OECD

The following is a summary of this seminal document. 

Its purpose.

To offer a ‘vision and some underpinning principles for the future of education systems. It is about orientation, not prescription.’ It is an invitation to ‘join in developing future-ready education for all.’

Why 2030?

2030 is the year that students entering the education system in 2018, will graduate. 

What sort of future will we face?

The OECD Education 2030 is part of the wider OECD action to ‘ensure the sustainability of people, profit, planet and peace.’

The OECD see three fundamental challenges facing our future learners:

  1. Environmental –dominated by climate change and the depletion of the world’s natural resources
  2. Economic – there will be a need for new economic, institutional and social models due to ‘unprecedented innovation in science and technology’, financial interdependence, data creation and sharing, cyber security and privacy.
  3. Social - the world is being ‘reshaped’ by migration, diversity, widening inequalities, threats of war and terrorism.

What sort of learner will we need?

Future-ready students need to exercise agency, in their own education and throughout life. Agency implies a sense of responsibility to participate in the world and, in so doing, to influence people, events and circumstances for the better.’

Education 2030 identifies two key factors in developing student agency:

  • personalised learning environments where students are motivated by their own interests and actively design their own learning experiences
  •  a solid foundation of literacy, numeracy, digital literacy and data literacy, physical health and mental well-being. 

Students will need ‘knowledge, skills, attitudes and values’ to meet the demands of the future.  They will need:

  • Discipline specific knowledge
  • The ability to transfer knowledge between domains through problem solving
  • The ability to ‘apply their knowledge in unknown and evolving circumstances’.

The following capabilities are seen as critical in the application and transfer of knowledge:

  • cognitive and meta-cognitive skills - critical thinking, creative thinking, learning to learn and self-regulation
  • social and emotional skills - empathy, self-efficacy and collaboration
  • practical and physical skills - using new information and communication technology devices.

These attributes will be ‘mediated by attitudes and values such as motivation, trust, respect for diversity and virtue.’

Learners will need new capabilities.  Education 2030 envisages three new capabilities (building on their previous capability work OECD Key Competencies - the DeSeCo project: Definition and Selection of Competencies)

These are:

  1. Creating new value - innovation and creativity to solve problems and create new knowledge
  2. Reconciling dilemmas and problems – securing personal well-being while understanding the needs of others
  3. Taking responsibility – self-regulation, self-efficacy, problem solving, adaptability.

 

‘These transformative competencies are complex; each competency is intricately inter-related with the others. They are developmental in nature, and thus learnable.’

Competencies need to be embedded into the heart of curriculum.

A Visual representation of Education 2030:

‘The OECD Learning Framework 2030 therefore encapsulates a complex concept: the mobilisation of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values through a process of reflection, anticipation and action, in order to develop the inter-related competencies needed to engage with the world.’

 


Figure 1. The OECD Learning Framework 2030: Work-in-progress

 

What does this mean for curricula design going forward?

  • Student agency. The curriculum should be designed around students to motivate them and recognise their prior knowledge, skills, attitudes and values. 
  • Rigour. Topics should be challenging and enable deep thinking and reflection. 
  • Focus. A relatively small number of topics should be introduced in each grade to ensure the depth and quality of students’ learning.
  • Coherence. Topics should be sequenced to reflect the logic of the academic discipline or disciplines on which they draw.
  • Alignment. The curriculum should be well-aligned with teaching and assessment practices. While the technologies to assess many of the desired outcomes do not yet exist, different assessment practices might be needed for different purposes. New assessment methods should be developed that value student outcomes and actions that cannot always be measured. 
  • Transferability. Higher priority should be given to knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that can be learned in one context and transferred to others. 
  • Choice.  Students should be offered a diverse range of topic and project options, and the opportunity to suggest their own topics and projects, with the support to make well-informed choices.  

Process design:

  • Teacher agency. Teachers should be empowered to use their professional knowledge, skills and expertise to deliver the curriculum effectively.  
  • Authenticity. Learners should be able to link their learning experiences to the real world and have a sense of purpose in their learning. This requires interdisciplinary and collaborative learning alongside mastery of discipline-based knowledge. 
  • Inter-relation. Learners should be given opportunities to discover how a topic or concept can link and connect to other topics or concepts within and across disciplines, and with real life outside of school.
  • Flexibility. The concept of "curriculum" should be developed from "predetermined and static" to "adaptable and dynamic". Schools and teachers should be able to update and align the curriculum to reflect evolving societal requirements as well as individual learning needs. 
  • Engagement. Teachers, students and other relevant stakeholders should be involved early in the development of the curriculum, to ensure their ownership for implementation.   

Concluding thoughts.

The students entering the schooling system in 2018 will graduate after I retire but the vision and principles of this paper are playing out in the system within which I currently teach.  They are not something I can shelve as belonging to the future.  The future is here.  Today, as I worked with my English class, I set them in small groups, armed with their laptops, to work to apply the principles of persuasive speech to a topical issue. Thirty years ago, we would have copied notes from my research on persuasive argument and I likely would have done the research on the topical issue, made it into a resource booklet and worked it through with them.  My focus would have been on increasing their knowledge. Today, I targeted the competencies of critical and creative thinking (constructing and argument using ethos, logos and pathos) and intercultural understanding (respecting the values and opinions of others) and ITC (using the internet for appropriate reliable information).  I am on a purposed journey with the class to develop their self-regulatory skills in participating actively in their own education.  We haven’t covered as much curricula content as we would have 30 years ago, the learning looks messier because it isn’t teacher focused, but they are engaged in learning with transferable skills.  The self-regulation continues to be a work in progress. 

 

The constructs of education are changing and this document encapsulates why.  I encourage you to read it in full. 

 

The Future of Education and Skills: Education 2030