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5 Key Education Trends Enabling Economic Growth

Capitalizing on these five trends will enable an education system to create transformation for the future.

“Human capital is perhaps the single most important long-term driver of an economy,” wrote Rebecca Strauss, associate director for the Council on Foreign Relations’ (CFR) Renewing America publications. “Smarter workers are more productive and innovative. It is an economist’s rule that an increase of one year in a country’s average schooling level corresponds to an increase of 3 to 4 percent in long-term economic growth. Most of the value added in the modern global economy is now knowledge based.”

Strauss was discussing a 2013 CFR study, which found the United States had slipped 10 spots in both high school and college graduation rates in the last three decades. Other studies show similar results. According to a global report by Pearson, the U.S. ranked 17th in the developed world for education, with Finland and South Korea placing 1st and 2nd, respectively.

As the U.S. is part of a global economy with education systems that are producing increasingly competitive students, it must operate in an emerging paradigm that is marked by changing demographics, methods, technology, funding and accountability. IBM refers to this paradigm as the “educational continuum,” which creates a smarter way of achieving economic objectives by aligning talent in the form of precious human capital in a region to the growth initiatives of a labor market.

But to anticipate and embrace the continuum, education and government leaders need to understand the shifting dynamics and trends impacting students, teachers and leaders. Capitalizing on these trends can enable an education system to create transformation for the future. 

Technology Immersion of Students

With connectivity already globally pervasive, a plethora of new devices will emerge over the next decade as microchips continue to proliferate and technology becomes even more affordable. By the beginning of the next decade, the number of unique objects connected wirelessly to the Internet should reach 27 billion. Thereafter, the number of connected devices is expected to double every five years.

Data Analytics for Analysis of Student and Institutional Data and Performance Metrics

Data analytics will serve as a foundation for transformation in education by improving how governments, schools, colleges and universities allocate resources, create and deliver curricula, assess learning and teaching, and support student success. Analytics translates volumes of data into insights for policy makers, administrators and educators alike so they can identify which academic practices and programs work best and where investments should be directed. By turning masses of data into useful intelligence, educational institutions can create smarter schools for now and for the future.

Personal Learning Paths

Students and parents are increasingly free to choose from a wide variety of primary and supplementary educational services (including online learning) from providers that complement their needs, abilities, means and preferences. Students can seek out relevant instructional materials that help them master particular concepts and then augment their experiences with online videos and supplemental courseware. Instructors have access to learning materials that enable them to build personal learning programs for remediation of low-performing students or acceleration of more challenging paths for advanced students.

Knowledge Skills for Service-Based Economies

Employers are increasingly hiring workers who possess job-related skills and foundational competencies that indicate an individual’s ability to adapt to changing markets and economic circumstances, including the increasing globalization of business. Workers of the future will be expected to solve problems that have not been encountered before; assimilate data from proprietary and unconnected sources; derive insights to make decisions; and communicate effectively in ways that transcend languages, countries and societal boundaries.

Economic Alignment as a Critical Role for Education

Education is a key differentiator in developing the workforce talent to create and sustain economic prosperity in the 21st century. Local and national leaders are calling for closer alignment between educational systems and the economic development initiatives and goals of their regions. New partnerships and interactions among governments, employers, educational institutions, teachers, parents and students will be essential. Data from such partnerships will help create a better understanding of the global workforce. Employers, policy makers and administrators alike should support better alignment between jobs that are produced by economies around the world and the graduates produced by educational systems locally.

These trends require educational systems to respond boldly. To be successful, leaders need to adopt and implement advanced and predictive tools, any device learning, student-centered processes and learning communities. U.S. governmental and educational leaders must increasingly view education as an integral component in a sustainable foundation for economic recovery and long-term health. 

Educational systems need to transition from outcome metrics that assess the performance of individual institutions to measuring the efficacy of the entire system in contributing to economic goals.

To learn more, read “The Future of Learning: Enabling Economic Growth."

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