The Future of Work and What It Means for Education Today

We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century — it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).

– Raymond Kurzweil, futurist, engineer and author, The Law of Accelerating Returns

A recent series of reports and articles by the OECD backs up Kurzweil’s prediction that the nature of work is changing at unprecedented rates and describes a mismatch between current skills development and skills for the future.

In a significant report on Australia’s future workforce, The Committee for Economic Development for Australia (CEDA) found a “high probability that 40 per cent of Australia’s workforce, more than five million people, could be replaced by automation within the next 10 to 20 years”.

We already know that it will be common for people to experience multiple career paths – this is already happening but we are less sure about what people will do for a living, the kinds of jobs that will be available and whether work will be full-time or permanent?

Andreas Schleicher, OECD Education Directorate, says that changes in the business world and the nature of work have significant implications for education systems. He believes that individuals and countries that are quick to adapt and open to change will be those that experience success.

It is about how knowledge is generated and applied, about shifts in ways of doing business, of managing the workplace or linking producers and consumers, and becoming quite a different student from the kind that dominated the 20th century. What we learn, the way we learn it, and how we are taught is changing. This has implications for schools and higher level education, as well as for lifelong learning.

– Andreas Schleicher, OECD Education Directorate, The case for 21st-Century Learning

Schlieicher, encourages policy makers and schools to start by re-thinking their beliefs and priorities. He says that for most of the last century the widespread belief among policy and schools was that getting the basics right in education was the necessary prerequisite to skill development.

Schlieicher argues that any policy maker or school that continues to hold onto this belief should not be surprised if children and young people continue to disengage in schools.  He says there is no doubt that study and education are important to job prospects for a person but he argues that learning today needs to be underpinned by different beliefs and priorities – learning needs to go deeper and to be more relevant to the lives of children and young people.

The film Most Likely to Succeed discusses the relationship between education and the future of work and living. Though the film centres on one of the High Tech High Schools, it makes the point that across America many schools and teachers are researching new ways of being more relevant to the lives of children and communities and that there is no one way, or one model that can be adopted. Schools and communities need to navigate their own way forward.

It would be great to hear from teachers and schools researching new ways of being and developing learners and citizens of the 21st century. Please share your comments and ideas below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe By Email

Get every new post delivered right to your inbox.

Please prove that you are not a robot.

Skip to toolbar