It might seem hasty to discuss a future educational landscape precisely at this moment when the crisis in this field may seem to have reached its zenith. According to data by UNESCO, until the 26th of April 2020, more than ninety per cent of students all over the world are not going to school, something that has never been predicted. We have experienced in an exceptionally short amount of time, countless adaptations to educational and administrative processes and we know there is more to come. This tendency, however, should not be regarded as an emergency shift. We have before us the opportunity to use all the changes that are already in course and to create the new education we all want.
And why will these changes bring about lasting impacts? Firstly a COVID-19 vaccine will not be available for the next few months and, in this first “new normal”, there will be more limited room for live, person-to-person interactions, with a direct impact in the school environment. Digital tools, until now regarded as helping aids in the educational process, will be allies in the construction of this new routine and will allow students to gradually return to normal activities in safety.
Besides, for each time social-distancing measures are extended, there will be classroom workload to be compensated for, since the 800-hour school year in 2020 has been kept. Solutions that only regard an adjustment to the school calendar will certainly not be enough to make up for such loss. The plan to return to school will, necessarily, involve a combination of on-site lessons with other ways of teaching that will require new attitudes, from teachers, students, and parents.
This same pressure for change will be seen in the job market. The health crisis we live in, will reshape the way we behave and will demand a new behavior from workers. Those better prepared to function in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world will be more successful than the rest. Teaching institutions will need to respond to this requirement quite swiftly, or they will run the risk of becoming irrelevant in a short period of time.
Lastly, we highlight the numerous distance-learning courses, encompassing the most varied fields of study. For sure, many people are realizing, during the quarantine, that they do not need to be in a classroom to advance their education.
In short, the cornerstones of the teaching system have been shaken and the changes that are already in course will reshape the way in which different stakeholders (teachers, supervisors, students and parents) perceive value and how they relate to it. This experiment and its consequences will form the basis over which the relationship of society with the educational system will be built in the coming years.
And then, here we are, reaching the goal of this article: the school in 2025.
This new school is certainly going to employ new pedagogical models and is not going to put all of its teaching activities in the same basket, i.e. the teacher.
Faculty have a specific training and understand their role as facilitators. Teachers employ varied teaching resources, get a grip of different tech tolls and are aware of the importance of continuing education in an environment of constant transformation. Classrooms are teaching labs where students “experiment with the syllabus”, each one guiding their learning according to their interests in an active way. Rows of school desks where pupils passively watch lectures, without an opportunity to speak or to move around, are no longer part of this reality.
Administrative processes are leaner and have fully embraced the digital medium. Teleworking is part of a team´s routine not by imposition, rather, because it has became a viable and economical option. Teaching still puts a focus on traditional fields of knowledge such as mathematics, language, history; but this process is carried out in an interdisciplinary approach. Fifty-minute-long classes where people cannot see the art that exists in mathematics have already been abolished. There is also meaningful room in the curriculum for the development of XXI century skills, and there is a consensus regarding the importance of these new themes in the teaching community. Families have active participation in the education of their children, they understand the work being developed by schools, and are able to provide a continuation to the holistic education of individuals at home. Each student and each family is given specific attention and it is even possible for the student to go on vacation at any time of the year without a negative impact in their learning, and ensuring the fulfillment of the syllabus.
Have you ever thought about that?! As in any exercise about how the future will be, there are many principles in the previous paragraphs that may turn out to be true, while others will be discarded. A part of them will be widely adopted and another part will be rolled out at a slower pace, or will not be adopted by some teaching institutions due to obstacles that might arise. What will there be in common to all of them? All should be taken into consideration starting now because, despite differences, nothing will be as before! The crisis has already highlighted the importance of values, attitudes and abilities that foster mutual respect and a peaceful coexistence. It has also demonstrated the value of an education that contributes to the resolution of existing and emerging global challenges that threaten the planet. It has also shown that it is impossible to build consistent solutions without a process of collaboration.
Despite all the challenges that have been imposed by social-distancing and the social and economics problems we are facing, we have the opportunity to learn from all this and to create our future. We start from this learning process, and ensure a better world for all of us. What school are we going to create for 2025?