2017 was a massive year for social and technological change. Donald Trump became the President of the United States, climate change continued to worsen and Artificial Intelligence made – and I mean actually made – the headlines.
Now, with 2018 in its infancy, educators and policymakers alike do not have an easy job deciding how to teach children in the wake of such a tumultuous year.
Until now, education has prepared students to enter the industrialized economy.
But with robots set to replace manual workers, sea levels set to rise over half a meter by 2050 and the threat of nuclear warfare become increasingly prominent, the role of education in 2018 has much bigger fish to fry than producing obedient workers who will efficiently fit car doors on a production line.
What are the biggest challenges facing education in 2018? And how can educators overcome these challenges?
1) The changing job market
As automated machines and AI promise to replace manual labor and data management jobs, humans have to focus on their human skills if they do not want to be left behind and made redundant.
This means that instead of instilling qualities that machines are designed for – such as obedience and memory recall – education in 2018 needs to focus on developing soft skills that machines cannot do.
Can you imagine a robot trying to reassure a family who have just lost their mother? Or a programmed algorithm creating beautiful music for a film soundtrack? Or a machine being motivated to reduce fuel emission due to respect for nature?
There are some qualities that a creative and emotional mind will always be able to do better than technology, and these are the skills that education needs to harness in 2018.
In order to prevent mass structural unemployment in the future, education in 2018 needs to look forward to the economy of tomorrow and focus on the skills that will be relevant to pupils when they enter the job market.
2) Social and emotional intelligence
In an increasingly unsteady political world, which is becoming more digitized by the day, social awareness and emotional intelligence are two of the most important human skills. Being able to emotionally connect with others, empathetically relate to difficult situations and having the nuance to navigate complex social issues is paramount to maintaining peace and stability in the future.
The world has never felt closer to Armageddon. Every month there are cries of nuclear warfare, every week there are reports of an alleged terror attack, and every day sea levels creep higher.
Empathy and compassion are needed now more than ever to help restore the human and natural world before humanity is wiped out completely. While education used to prepare students for the industrial world, 2018 is the year education has to restore the damage the industrial world has done.
3) Education technology
Education technology – or ed-tech to those in the know – became a buzz-phrase in teaching circles in 2017.
However, as the ed-tech sector grows, more entrepreneurs are jumping on the bandwagon. Instead of education startups providing innovative solutions to age-old problems, Forbes reported there has been a trend of companies providing competing products.
This fall in innovation may see the stagnation of education reform to meet the needs of the already-digitized 21st century. However, by focusing on new technologies, such as Virtual Reality, ed-tech can gain new life and offer students a learning experience that is unique to traditional education.