|Ten Trends: Educating Children for Tomorrow's World|
|Người gửi: Phạm Thị Ly|
The status quo is a ticket to obsolescence. Why? Because the world around us is in motion, changing at dizzying speed. That's why schools need to prepare students for a profoundly different future. This article examines ten major trends and the challenges they present for schools, school systems, and communities.
Ten major trends are shaking the foundations of society as we've known it. Nowhere will these seismic shifts have greater impact than in our schools. After all, educational institutions are not only forced to function within their environments, but they are also expected to prepare their students, not for the past, but for the future. Today's children will live, work, and interact with everyone from professional colleagues to parents and grandparents in profoundly different ways
Environmental Scans, Outside Forces, and Trends
Trend 1: For the First Time in History, the Old Will Outnumber the Young. (Younger Older)
When life expectancies and average ages go up and birth rates and death rates go down, a society becomes inevitably older. That's exactly what's happening in many countries, including the United States. Let's look at the handwriting on the wall.
This unprecedented shift raises concerns about issues ranging from the solvency of pension programs to competition for resources between those who are older and those who are younger.
What are the implications for schools? For one, education systems will be challenged to deal with growing enrollments at a time when a substantial portion of the teaching force is on the verge of retirement. The US Department of Education predicts that the nation's public schools will need to attract 2.2 million new teachers before 2010.
Of course, every challenge creates an opportunity. For example, schools might consider recruiting early retirees with valuable experience in other fields to prepare for new careers as educators. Older people might also be invited to share their rich life experience as volunteer tutors or aides.
Growing numbers of retirees with in-depth experience in the application of technology might be willing to help students connect what they are learning to real-life situations. At the same time, adult and community education programs, tailored to the needs of older citizens, could substantially expand the role of schools and broaden community understanding. Geriatric care will offer growing numbers of opportunities for students who are thinking about future careers.
Future focused schools will offer courses and activities that not only prepare students to better understand aging but also emphasize the importance of cross-generational communication. Some schools might even host centers for older citizens or geriatric day-care programs under their roofs.
Trend 2: The United States Will Become a Nation of Minorities. (Majority/Minority Minority/Minority)
By mid-century, no single racial or ethnic group will make up a significant majority of the US population. By 2050, the longstanding non-Hispanic white majority will represent 53% of the population, down from 71% in 2000. Shortly after 2050, the United States will become a nation of minorities. That change will take place even more quickly among young people aged birth to 18, according to the US Census Bureau. In 2000, 64% of children in this age group were non-Hispanic white. By 2050, only 46% will be non-Hispanic white.
As more children from a variety of racial and ethnic groups enter US schools, the diversity gap between teachers and administrators and their students is widening. In the early part of the 21st century, one education leader predicts, minorities will comprise 41% of American students, compared with just 5% of US teachers.
Providing equal opportunity and closing the achievement gap among students of various groups are among the most demanding issues facing schools at the turn of the century. This challenge will be magnified by the move toward standards and high-stakes testing. In a fast-changing world, any gaps are multiplied exponentially.
We can expect school systems to intensify their efforts to attract and keep excellent teachers and administrators from a growing array of racial and ethnic groups to serve as role models. Pressure will grow for outstanding teachers to be assigned to schools and students with the greatest needs. Generally, schools will offer an even greater international focus, help students become more culturally sensitive, and develop their proficiency in other languages. As our nation becomes continuously more diverse, we must understand the people and cultures of other parts of the world if we hope to understand our own country.
Whether students live in multicultural/multi-ethnic communities or not, they will need to be prepared to understand and work with people whose heritage is different from their own.
What are the consequences of not dealing effectively with challenges posed by this earthshaking trend? One could be a nation or community divided against itself, as people retreat into enclaves. Take a look at the symptoms: 25% of all Hispanics in the US live in four counties; 81% of people who live in Hidalgo County (McAllen), Texas, are Hispanic; 76% of people who live in Detroit, Michigan, are black; and 62.3% of people who live in Honolulu County, Hawaii, are Asian.
Trend 3: Social and Intellectual Capital will become the Primary Economic Value in Society.
The new economic values in the world economy are social and intellectual capital. In an economy driven by technology and information, a dramatically increasing level of knowledge is needed to function in any occupation, ranging from managerial and professional to technical, service, manufacturing, and agricultural. One thing is clear in an economy based on social and intellectual capital-what you know and who you know both count.
Knowledge is the new coin of the realm, the new basis for wealth. According to Daniel McKnight (1999), president of High Performance Strategy Associates, "You can't use knowledge up. As you use it, it grows, creating a perpetual wealth machine."
The extraordinary new economy is held together, strengthened, and rapidly advanced through the recognition and wise use of social capital such as relationships among employees, suppliers, customers, researchers, industry experts, and the community. Unleashing and connecting the collective knowledge, ideas, and experiences of people creates and heightens value.
How will the accelerating move toward social and intellectual capital affect schools? Educators and their communities need to stay in touch with developments in society so they can know what knowledge and skills students will need to be prepared for the future. They should also capitalize on their own social and intellectual wealth. Schools develop hundreds, even thousands, of relationships with students, staff, parents, other units of government, nongovernmental organizations, universities, the surrounding community, business and professional colleagues, vendors, and other groups. Each and every school should be seen as a source of intellectual strength.
Twenty-first century schools will move away from the factory model, a relic of the Industrial Age. For example, schools and educators need to help students learn to collaborate with others and work in teams; sift through exploding volumes of often conflicting information; engage in both critical and creative thinking; use a vast array of technological tools; understand and respect other cultures and people different from themselves; grasp both their rights and responsibilities as citizens in a democratic society; possess high levels of perseverance and curiosity; and become keenly aware of and sensitive to the ethical dimensions of their discoveries, conclusions, and actions.
Since many students will one day be working on their own or in cyber-connected communities, all will need management skills. They will also need to understand the importance of being entrepreneurial, not just to make money but also to improve life in their families, communities, countries, and world.
Of course, to make this type of information age education possible, educators should become learning entrepreneurs, demand preparation and professional development programs that challenge existing habits and mindsets, and provide intellectual leadership for a global knowledge/information age. Unleashing the genius of people will become a primary focus of every education institution, every community, and every country, if it hopes to gain a foothold in the international marketplace of ideas, products, and services.
Trend 4: Education Will Shift from Averages to Individuals. (Standardization Personalization)
With knowledge increasing at an unprecedented rate, test scores sometimes dipping, and international competition knocking at the door, education reformers in the 1990s agreed that something had to be done. The answer was to impose standards and high-stakes tests to direct the curriculum, demand certain levels of performance, and insist on penalties if the standards weren't met.
Now, those standards and high stakes tests are raising new questions and concerns about high stakes consequences. Are the standards focused on preparing students for the future or for the 1950s, virtually freezing the system in the past? Does the pressure to do well on high-stakes tests narrow the curriculum? Are some students being pushed out because they simply can't cut it, and the resources and widespread willingness are not there to keep them in school? Are teachers and administrators being driven from the field and others discouraged from pursuing education careers because adequate resources are often not provided to help students reach the standards?
If students are not able to pass those tests and if schools lose their accreditation, parents will become alarmed about both their children's progress in school and about their property values. Let's face it. The price of a house is often tied directly to the performance of students at the local school.
Therefore, the trend toward standards and high-stakes testing will likely incite a movement toward ensuring that support is provided for individual students to reach high levels of learning. Demand will grow for personalization rather than a system often driven by prescribed high-stakes tests that produce averages, demand uniformity, and sustain a scoreboard mentality.
What are the implications for 21st century schools? Educators will be expected to bring out the individual talents and abilities of each and every student. Personalizing education will be the key to helping students reach and exceed standards. (That's what most educators have wanted to do for decades, if not centuries.) Schools will move toward more performance-based testing, ensure that standards do not narrow the curriculum, and educate their communities about the benefits and limits of testing.
Trend 5: The Millennial Generation Will Insist on Solutions to Accumulated Problems and Injustices. (Silents, Boomers, and Xers Millennials)
Members of the Millennial Generation, those born roughly between 1982 and 2003, will insist on solutions to an accumulation of society's problems and injustices. Their impatience and drive will very likely shake the world and its institutions, including schools.
Generational experts predict that the Millennials, much like the GIs four generations before them, will be willing to lay down their lives for causes they consider right and just. They will be willing to fight for democracy and against despotism, rescue the environment, and develop alternative sources of energy. They will be front and center in debates about issues surrounding genetic engineering and biotechnology, basic human rights, economic fairness in an emerging global economy, and closing the digital divide.
It seems clear that the Millennial Generation will join and lead the fight, in their local communities, in their countries, and in the world. The question is how they will lead it. A lot is riding on how they are educated.
Schools will need to intensify their efforts to help students become civil, responsible citizens, with a good sense of self and the ability to make peaceful change. That means students will need a firm grounding in civic education and in making change democratically. Schools will help students develop teamwork and conflict management skills, use technology to build a case and address a cause, and build media literacy skills.
Preparing Millennials to make positive change will be among the most challenging and exciting roles of schools in the early 21st century. Astute educators will give students a voice in decisions that affect them, become facilitators of learning since students have immediate access to a worldwide array of information, accept change as normal, offer generation-spanning professional development, and prepare students to deal with possible intergenerational conflict by teaching the benefits of collaboration.
Schools will be caught in the middle of intergenerational battles for support of education. Highly motivated Millennials, as they become parents, will insist on increased public investment in the young. At the same time, they will find themselves outnumbered by older generations who will likely demand greater resources to meet their own needs.
Throughout their lives, Millennials will be seeking ways to build a better world. That means schools, if they constantly show they are mission driven, will be able to attract many talented and dedicated people into education careers.
Trend 6: Continuous Improvement and Collaboration Will Replace Quick Fixes and Defense of the Status Quo. (Quick Fixes and Status Quo Continuous Improvement)
Two words describe how any organization, public or private, will survive and thrive in the 21st century: continuous improvement. No matter how good we are today, we need to become even better tomorrow.
The push for continuous improvement is fueled by competition, technology, new thinking, and growing impatience among people who want products and services that work, meet their needs, and are delivered on time. Demand for quality, effectiveness, and service is increasing.
Like their counterparts in business and government, growing numbers of teachers and administrators are taking the need for continuous improvement seriously. More are doing regular surveys of students, staff, and community, involving people in identifying problems and making improvements, and undertaking system-wide efforts to reshape their schools and school system for a global knowledge/information age.
Organizations that don't continuously improve won't be around for long-there will be others with an entrepreneurial spirit waiting to step in to fill the "opportunity gap." This is as true in education as it is in business. At the turn of the century, some private firms are opening for-profit schools, and others are selling existing school systems programs that amount to a new way of doing business.
Schools must move beyond defensiveness and toward solutions. While schools have done a magnificent job of preparing students for an industrial age, they are now presented with the opportunity of a lifetime-shaping the education system for the future. Leadership through inclusion; aligning the education system with student and community needs; maintaining the flexibility to deal with opportunities, needs, and interests; and incorporating the principles of continuous improvement at all levels, from the system to the classroom, are keys to a brighter future and the very survival of public or private schools.
Of course, schools can't do the job alone. To be effective, they need to work in collaboration with businesses, higher education, government, nongovernmental organizations, consultants, professional and trade associations, and a host of others.
Trend 7: Technology Will Increase the Speed of Communication and the Pace of Advancement or Decline. (Atoms Bits) (Macro Micro Nano)
Twenty-first century technology is having a profound effect on every person, every organization, and every nation on earth. Those who have it and know how to use it are moving forward at an unprecedented rate. Those who don't are declining at the same dizzying pace.
New technologies will not only help schools deliver a sound education, but they will also play a central role in helping today's students shape tomorrow's world. The Internet and other technologies will continue to bring an expanding world of information and ideas into the classroom. Because many students have more technology in their bedrooms than some schools have in their classrooms, they will come to class armed with more information on some subjects than their teachers. Some will have spent hours mining that information from the Internet and other sources.
That means a new role for teachers. Great teachers will not only serve as subject matter specialists but will also become partners with students, helping them learn how to turn information into usable knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. Rather than simply dispensing information, 21st century teachers will become orchestrators and facilitators of learning.
Increasing numbers of "connected" schools and school systems will use their web sites, e-mail, and other technologies to become the learning centers of their communities. They will virtually open the classroom to the world, help students use communications and other technologies to deal with real world problems and opportunities, offer high-tech vocational education, engage students in continuous self-learning; and help those students understand the ethical dimensions of technology.
At the same time, schools will use emerging technologies to help drive the restructuring of the system, the redesign of school facilities, and the shape of professional development. All will be faced with closing the digital divide that separates the technology rich from the technology poor.
Educators will be challenged to help students discover how technological skills are essential in any walk of life, from building a bridge and conducting medical research to diagnosing an engine problem at a car dealership or designing a community park. With increased downsizing and career changing in the marketplace, technology skills are very much like a professional insurance policy.
The automobile, highway system, air travel, space exploration, radio, television, computers, e-mail, the Internet, nuclear energy and weapons, and pharmaceuticals ranging from fertility drugs to the birth control pill and Prozac have brought exponential change during the 20th century. What will drive our 21st century economy? It will be nanotechnology, which refers to technology at the molecular level. Moving from macro to micro to nano will likely mean pharmaceuticals concocted to match our genetic makeup and megamaterials such as superconductors that will lead to quantum increases in computer speed and capacity, making Moore's Law obsolete. In turn, these technologies will be driven by our accumulated social and intellectual capital.
Who will develop nano technologies that will drive the economy of the future? Who will discover and develop alternative sources of energy and bring them to market? It will be the students who are in our schools today, and those schools need to prepare them for these monumental opportunities.
Let's face it. If we don't do it, someone else will!
Trend 8: Knowledge Creation and Breakthrough Thinking Will Stir a New Era of Enlightenment. (Information Acquisition Knowledge Creation)
Knowledge is increasing exponentially. At the same time, technologies are making ideas and information instantly available to people around the world and in all walks of life. As people sense relationships between and among ideas, information, and experiences, they see things in a new light. That's how knowledge creation and breakthrough thinking take place.
The school that makes knowledge creation and breakthrough thinking a central function makes itself indispensable. Anyone developing a program focused on developing intellectual entrepreneurs and producing enlightened or renaissance students will discover fragments looking for a framework.
Much of what needs to be done, in varying degrees, is already there: interdisciplinary teaching, applications of cognitive research, instruction for multiple intelligences, a focus on teaching thinking and reasoning skills, and a commitment to helping students turn information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom.
At the end of a class, teachers might ask students, "Does what we've studied today trigger any ideas for you?" As students process what they've learned and couple it with other learning and their life experience, they will, before our very eyes, create new knowledge and engage in breakthrough thinking. The enlightened student will see relationships across all disciplines and overcome what Harvard professor and biologist Edward O. Wilson calls "the ongoing fragmentation of knowledge."
Ideas converge as we think about the future. Therefore, enlightened school systems will make futures studies an essential part of education. People, communities, and even countries have gotten into trouble because they didn't have a plan and shot from the hip without paying attention to benefits and consequences. Students and educators need to understand the importance of considering alternative futures and of planning backward from outcomes we'd like to see.
Trend 9: Scientific Discoveries and Societal Realities Will Force Difficult Ethical Choices (Pragmatic Ethical)
Scientific discoveries and societal realities are constantly pushing the ethical envelope. In a world poised for unprecedented progress, we have seen a mind-boggling escalation in the possible benefits and consequences of our actions. The choices we make will profoundly affect the future.
Society and its schools need to produce students who have a sense of civic virtue, who understand the need for a code of ethics, who understand and can practice the principles of conflict resolution, who are tolerant and accepting of people unlike themselves, and who understand both the consequences of their own actions and the effects of their actions on others.
In addition, schools must model ethical practice. A school system that teaches students about democracy but never involves people in decisions that affect them is sending the wrong message. Because we learn about ethics primarily through precept and example, school systems, as leading institutions in the community, play a central role in setting an example for ethical behavior.
While teaching values and ethics can stir a heated debate, most communities are demanding that their schools address these subjects. Concepts such as courtesy, due process, honesty, integrity, justice, respecting the rights of others, tolerance, and truth are bread and butter to a democratic society.
What are some of the ethical issues today's students will face? Here are a few: world poverty and inequities in the distribution of resources; violations of basic human rights; production, distribution, and control of weapons; trade in illicit drugs; computer ethics; genetic engineering and cloning; stewardship for the environment; dealing with crime and corruption; and introducing new life forms on other planets.
Demand will continue to grow for curriculum and activities that build character and civic responsibility. US schools and American society have been significantly successful in teaching students and other citizens about their rights. Now, there is growing awareness that keeping those rights depends on an equal commitment to exercising responsibility.
Twenty-first century schools will be expected to clarify their role in teaching about ethics, expand their civic and character education programs, make critical and creative thinking basic skills, deal effectively with inappropriate behavior and violence, become an ethical resource for the community, and include an ethical component in most course.
While teachers will not dictate an ethical code, they can ask students to think, write about, and discuss the ethical implications of what they are learning. They can stimulate students to consider the possible effects of their ideas and actions on themselves and others.
Trend 10: Competition Will Increase as Industries and Professions Intensify Their Efforts to Attract and Keep Talented People. (Unemployment Hyperemployment)
The battle to attract and keep talented people is getting more intense. There are several reasons: growing numbers of people are retiring; new industries are paying hefty salaries, offering compelling benefit packages, and altering working conditions to meet the demands of diverse generational groups; and relatively low unemployment means fewer people are between jobs. In attracting and keeping people, ranging from teachers and administrators to bus drivers and custodians, schools are increasingly on the short end of the stick.
Nationwide, some 2.4 million teachers were expected to be needed between 1998 and 2008 to make up for teacher attrition, retirements, and increased enrollments, according to National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) projections. That number jumps as high as 2.7 million when researchers factor in declining student/teacher ratios based on nationwide class size reduction efforts. Nearly half of the nation's school systems are reporting a shortage of qualified candidates for the principalship, and applications for superintendencies have dropped precipitously.
Old policies and procedures for attracting people into education careers may not be appropriate for today's realities. For example, more flexibility would allow younger teachers to work part time in job-sharing arrangements while they raise their children, rather than forcing them to leave the profession. Experienced teachers and administrators could continue working rather than take early retirement if schools offered a reduced schedule. Schools might try to attract highly experienced people who may be considering retirement or just a change from positions outside education and are willing to prepare for a new career.
Dealing with the Trends
The trends highlighted in this article cannot be ignored. Already, these seismic shifts are affecting school systems, communities, states, nations, and the world.
The status quo has disappeared. Incremental change often comes up short. That means educators and communities are faced with tackling these monumental trends head on. A dynamic community, one that is truly poised for the future, is constantly planning for how it can become even better tomorrow than it is today.
Every school system, any organization for that matter, needs to regularly engage in visionary short-term and long-term planning. Of course, organizational leaders, such as superintendents and principals, need to be sure that plans are based on informed discussions and decisions.
To deal with the perils and opportunities embedded in these trends, school districts could appoint an ongoing Trends Council that would engage in generative thinking. In other words, those councils would be assigned to study these and other trends and issues, and then report their potential impacts to educators and the community. The Council would not make decisions but would advise the school system and perhaps the community at large on how it might prepare to deal with these and other trends. This release of genius and gathering of intellectual and social capital community-wide could help shape the system to ensure that it is capable of preparing students for the future.
And when the plan is developed, it is important to engage the community and educators in renewing it regularly. Not only are their ideas important, so is their understanding and support.
The world is changing at warp speed. If they play their cards right, schools can lead that change as they educate their students and communities to create an exciting and even more hopeful future.
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