10 February 2020
I am writing this article to share some of my personal thoughts on the recent paradigm shift occurring in education in an era marked by rapid digital transformation.
I’ve started my 29th year in education. In the course of my career, I had the privilege of teaching students of all ages from several different nations and cultures, in all kinds of educational environments. I worked in educational institutions where slate blackboards were the most modern available instructional tools that we could use in the classrooms, but only if we didn’t run out of chalk. At other institutions, I had the opportunity to use the most modern digital tools and on-line learning platforms. I can safely say, from personal experience, that I got familiar with the many facets and the undeniable challenges of contemporary education.
The idea of transforming the existing systems of education for the needs and standards of the times is not new. Historically, reforms have taken different forms and types.
It’s inarguable that profound changes are necessary, but there is little discussion about the potential consequences and implications of ill-considered reforms.
Mounting evidence suggests that the current system of education, which may have once been up-to-date and delivered results, has become obsolete. The world has passed it by – they say. Advanced technology is driving an education revolution and the expected learning outcomes and the demands of the labour market have also changed, which indicates that a paradigm shift is needed. However, making such a statement suggests that the paradigm shift has already begun and is ongoing. How and to what extent can this paradigm shift or paradigm change currently be perceived is a very different question. On this point, it is not easy to give an answer, since the current state and future prospects of education can be considered at both a national and global level.
Sadly, crisis persists in many education systems across the developing world where there might be no electricity, no schools, no teachers, etc. This does not mean that people do not study. They certainly do, but within the framework of a system that is lagging behind, that is different from how we see education from the European perspective. Elsewhere, in the so-called developed world, it is still uncommon that educators can take advantage of the benefits of information and communication technology devices and modern, innovative teaching methods. Between the two extremes coexist a wide range of education systems, pedagogical approaches, traditions and cultures; therefore, we must be realistic and cautious in our expectations about the future of education. It is commonplace though that the rapid development and proliferation of advanced technology and the digital revolution has had and will continue to have an impact on our everyday life and on education all over the world.
21st century life skills such as digital literacy, being able to use smart technology and being able to navigate in cyber space and virtual reality environments are increasingly essential in today’s society. However, the rapid technological transformation is not the only issue when it comes to reforming education. Lifelong learning, continuous self-training and retraining, facilitating inter-occupational mobility (which, of course, is not independent of technological development, politics and socio-economic changes) are all part of the education reform, not to mention that the concept of knowledge and learning will also have to be redefined.
Education, especially higher education, must accommodate the growing variety of learning needs. As the diversity of individual life strategies is on the rise and the labour market offers more and more opportunities, higher education must show adaptability and flexibility. Smooth integration into the ‘machinery’, collaboration and communication skills are becoming increasingly important, otherwise, the individual might be excluded. Apparently, (life-long) learning is key to survival.
We tend to overlook or underestimate the moral-ethical implications of change. While we consider it necessary to modernize or reform education, we may be less concerned with the humanist ethical consequences of change.
Let’s not forget that education is not only about learning and teaching but also about norms of behaviour, human relationships and shaping communities. If there is still a place for these concepts at all. There are calls for changes to education, but at the same time, many continue to warn – directly or indirectly – of the dangers of ill-considered change.
Therefore, it is our common responsibility to develop solutions in modernising education which are economically profitable and at the same time preserve our encoded moral values that can be passed on through education. It is not knowledge that defines a person, or rather not knowledge in itself, but the person’s moral stance as well. If it is diminishing or is lost, then this reformed education would only serve an insane society.
Therefore, education should be transformed in a way that can meet the demands of the 21st century, and at the same time, it should also be able to shape the morality and ethics of a changing world. As Heraclitus says: “ethos anthropos daimon“, which roughly translated means that man is a man as long as he has the highest degree of ethos.
Sound counsel, it’s wise to follow it.