Kathryn Booth, Director of School Qualifications, Pearson Middle East, North Africa and Turkey

Originally from the UK, Kathryn studied natural sciences at university. She spent 9 years developing and managing science qualifications for Pearson Edexcel in London, before moving to the Middle East in 2018 to head up the regional qualifications team for Pearson.

 

The outbreak of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown implemented to curb the spread of the virus impacted every stage of learning in the Middle East, from preschools to universities. Worldwide, the education of approximately 110 million children and young individuals was disrupted. However, the implementation of online learning system and tools along with the digitalization of the industry opened up opportunities for educators and innovative ways of learning for learners. 

The transition to online learning and accepting it as the ‘new normal’ of learning was a challenging experience for everyone involved. However, with the broad acceptance from governments, industry, institutions, and educators across the region, we have witnessed a gradual uptake in the usage of online and blended learning platforms. 

Even with the UAE government announcing its move to return to face-to-face learning in October 2021, one thing is apparent: not everything will go back to how it was before. Speaking for the Education sector’s perspective, the Pearson Global Learner Survey 2020, which is the voice of millions of learners across the globe, suggests that we will never fully return to a pre-Covid education world. The survey results show that globally, 88% of the learners agree that online learning will become a permanent part of learning for all age groups. Done well, this can lead to a more quality education and better learning experience in the future.

Below are some of the trends that the industry will be witnessing, transforming the learning experiences of individuals in the near future.

Reinventing education for the AI age

To create a robust and transformative education model for the future, the industry can leverage frontier technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) which has the potential to reinvent the learning experience by transcending geographical boundaries, customizing learning to meet the needs of the individuals and delivering personalized and rich content. 

Interactive learning to become the new norm

In this digital age, it’s unsurprising that attention spans have been declining and screen fatigue is increasingly a problem. 

One of the methods to address this challenge in the learning environment is to embrace interactive learning i.e. learning through interactive or animated videos, designed to foster a challenging but encouraging space for students to understand novel concepts and develop practical skills. Imparting education in this form has proven to sharpen critical thinking skills and development of analytical reasoning. It also helps in teaching children how to collaborate and work successfully in groups, an indispensable skill for the future workforce. 

In the ‘new normal’, there will be an increase in the adoption of blended training models with a mix of digital and online experience, in addition to practice, teacher led, and discussions.

That being said, the trend naturally varies for different age groups. While for Higher-Ed institutes and universities, the trend is to move, for example, lectures to virtual depending on the material, subject, class size, etc. For schools, learners will eventually go back to the classroom and make use of digital/blended models to enrich the learning experience.  Teachers play a particular role in physical schools with the youngest learners, who naturally find self-led learning across the length of a school day extremely difficult without the intervention of an adult who can act as a ‘learning coach’. 

Reimagining the skills of the future

Technology and digital education have uncovered new of opportunities to help people learn in more accessible ways, more economically, and with better outcomes. 

The future of job roles is changing even more quickly today than it did in the past, and as a result people are also rethinking what and how they should be learning in the future, too. Educational institutions are exploring innovative approaches to equip students with a blend of knowledge and skills to be able to successfully access global higher-education opportunities and to empower them to be future-ready and overcome the challenges of ever-evolving employment landscape. Adapting to this new world, organizations across the globe are demanding workers with strong interpersonal, technical, and problem-solving skills.

This chimes with the findings of the Global Learner survey: skills which have become most critical are soft skills or human skills such as creative thinking, reasoning, collaboration, complex problem solving. and job-oriented skills such as using data effectively and virtual collaboration. In addition, 87% think that good English language skills will become important for global employment opportunities. Due to the ever-evolving employment landscape, more students are taking responsibility for directing their own learning. They are also expecting substantial support from schools to prepare them to choose the right field and help them transition from learning to earning. To upskill the workforce of today and tomorrow, there is an increasing need for adult learning, shorter courses, soft skill training, all as affordable options.

Education is forever changing, but this has been especially true during the current pandemic. We are at a point in history, where circumstances have forced our hand, and where we have the opportunity to   rewrite the future of education in a way that makes it more accessible, self-reliant and equitable for all.

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