This makes it harder for educators and policymakers to plan for the future.
Looking at present-day trends can give some idea as to how education might evolve, and this is what Trends Shaping Education sets out to do. It selects 26 major trends covering such dynamics as population change, economic, political and social developments, and the impact of technological innovation and climate change. Each trend is explained and assessed, and questions are asked about the potential impact on future education.
Take information technology. Since the 1990s and the advent of the Internet, IT has become an integral part of learning, from multimedia and open source to the likes of Wikipedia and blogs. Are schools doing enough to help children develop their IT skills and make full use of all these new technologies?
The report looks at social impacts too, at ageing for instance, which is having a profound effect on schools in terms of teaching and investment. Fewer children are being born in developed countries, and so school rolls will decline, the report argues, while overall teacher shortages will also persevere. This will affect local communities and the wider economy. One question raised in the report is how schools might meet the needs of older people.
Not that examining past trends is a reliable guide to the future. Also, forecasting the number of children who will enter primary education in 10 years’ time is probably easier to do than predicting, say, the next major technological breakthrough. But Trends Shaping Education is not a crystal ball, but a set of tools to help people think more deeply and openly about the changing world in which education must grow.
©OECD Observer No 269 October 2008