Tomorrow's world, where teachers are obsolete

3rd October 2014 at 01:00
Experts predict online lessons will be the norm in 15 years

Imagine a world where most of a student's learning takes place on their home computer, and where schools and teachers are in danger of becoming obsolete. Exams are defunct and pupils are judged by their peers via LinkedIn-style profile endorsements. Academic knowledge is largely irrelevant and education, funded by parents and business, focuses on developing the skills required for work.

To many teachers, passionate about sharing their subject with the next generation, this may sound like some kind of dystopian nightmare. But according to hundreds of global experts, this is how the world of education will look in 15 years' time.

A survey carried out for the upcoming World Innovation Summit for Education (Wise) has revealed a collective vision for education in 2030 that is radically different from the classroom-centred model of today.

"No more teachers, lectures or imposed curricula," the Wise report says. "The brick-and-mortar school will no longer be a place where students are taught theoretical knowledge, but instead a social environment where they receive guidance, enabling them to interact with their peers.that will better prepare them for professional life."

Fewer than half of respondents (42 per cent) feel that academic knowledge will remain a fundamental part of education, with personal and practical skills predicted to play a more important role.

Sugata Mitra, a professor of educational technology at Newcastle University and the creator of the self-guided learning project School in the Cloud, writes in the report that the idea of teachers as experts will become obsolete. "We don't need people who know everything," he says. "I think we have to let them go."

Fewer than a fifth (19 per cent) of those surveyed feel that a teacher's most important task will be to "deliver knowledge". Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) say the job will instead entail coaching children through bespoke learning plans. More worryingly, 8 per cent take the view that teachers' only task will be to validate students' online work.

Testing students' attainment in traditional subjects will no longer be useful, Professor Mitra says. "We need to look at our assessment system and change our goals to reflect a more holistic education.Marks in disciplines such as mathematics, English literacy or history don't tell us anything about the student."

According to almost half the respondents (43 per cent), the most important source of knowledge will be online learning.

Policy analyst Yasar Jarrar, a fellow at the UK's Cranfield University School of Management and a participant in the survey, writes that he expects the education system of the future to be a "hybrid between online content and global learning networks.and the brick-and-mortar schools, which are really there for quality assurance, monitoring standards and guiding students through their learning journey".

Strikingly, only 7 per cent of the experts polled anticipate that "fundamental values and traditions" such as strict classroom discipline will retain an important place in education.

And assessment will change too, the report says. More than two-thirds of respondents anticipate that employer-set qualifications will become the norm.

However, nearly a quarter (24 per cent) expect exams to become secondary, with pupil performance instead judged by LinkedIn-style peer endorsements.

Arguably the most far-fetched conclusion is that a global language will become the norm in all classrooms, a view shared by nearly half the Wise experts.

Linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky, however, has his doubts. "I don't frankly expect it," he says in the report. "It's a long way in the future, if at all, but it could happen. However, for the short-term future, for what we can envision, I think that English is likely to predominate."

The Wise summit, a global platform for education debate founded by the Qatari government's Qatar Foundation, will take place next month in Doha to discuss the theme of creativity in education.

`Until I get a hoverboard, I'll be doubtful'

Emma Hardy, a teacher at Willerby Carr Lane Primary School in Hull, says that the far-fetched predictions of television shows such as Tomorrow's World have given her a "healthy scepticism of what the brave new world of tomorrow will look like".

"This view of the future of education differs so greatly from the path we are currently being taken down, where knowledge is king and the aim of education is solely to `make people cleverer'," she says. "Schools and school buildings will endure because of the need for human interaction, inspiring teachers and lifelong friendships.

"The one thing you can guarantee is that human nature does not change and, until I get my promised hoverboard in 2015, I'll continue to be doubtful."

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