Fast forward to 2030 and the children who started school in 2017 will need to be just as skilled in critical thinking, creativity and empathy as they are in literacy and numeracy and technology.
It is impossible to accurately predict the jobs of the future, says Mark Scott, the secretary of the NSW Department of Education, but schools will need to prepare the next generations of students for a world that will be dominated by intelligent machines.
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“Children are now facing a more uncertain future than any child has faced since the Industrial Revolution,” Mr Scott said.
Mr Scott this week gave a speech to the Trans-Tasman Business Circle where he outlined publicly for the first time his vision for education of the future. It was the springboard for the launch of work being done within the department to prepare students for a fast-changing world.
The kindergarten class of 2017 faces the biggest changes since the Industrial Revolution.
The department is commissioning research and papers from the world’s leading experts and educators in the areas of artificial intelligence and education systems of the future. Mr Scott has also held round-table meetings with business and industry and will host symposiums for all sectors of schools.
“We need to teach students to find and make meaning in their learning not to simply master a list of skills,” Mr Scott said.
Mr Scott said confidence in STEM subjects would remain critical, and the challenge to encourage girls into science and technology was greater than ever, but the ability to collaborate, think creatively and have deep knowledge and mastery was the new great challenge for schools.
“I suspect we don’t have to wait for curriculum change for this to happen, I think great teachers can embed things like critical thinking in what are they are teaching every day,” Mr Scott said.
Secretary of the NSW Department of Education, Mark Scott, in Sydney.
He said AI was transforming classrooms and learning, with teachers able to use technology to create customised content for specific subjects and students, but great teachers would never become obsolete.
But teachers will need to be able to monitor and track the progress of every child, not only in literacy and numeracy, but also personal attributes.
“We shouldn’t be frightened of assessment but we need more detailed diagnostics so we can assess a child’s progress and gain insight into what a child knows and what they can do,” Mr Scott said.
“A theme emerging from our investigations is that some of the key skills and attributes of the future are not necessarily the ones that we directly measure in our major assessments.
“We are good at assessing literacy and numeracy skills and students’ depth of content knowledge in core subjects. These will continue to be critical. But what of these broader skills and attributes, such as resilience, that idea of the growth mindset, the capacity to fail and try again, to persevere?”
Mr Scott said AI, robotics and automation were transforming the way people live and work, but the changes would also bring new opportunities.
“It will become increasingly important … that our students are able to engage with the ethical questions that they raise for all of us – the privacy implications, issues of transparency and fairness and the potential for in-built biases in the algorithms that are making automated decisions that affect our lives,” he said.
But above all, Mr Scott said, education systems around the world need to start preparing now for the world that today’s five-year-olds will inherit.
“The future in the classroom is now. We are at a crossroads and we can’t sit back and wait for the revolution to happen to us. We need to lead the change. This is education’s moment,” Mr Scott’s speech to business leaders this week said.
Examples of AI in classrooms around the world
Third Space Learning’s online math tutoring platform is used by over 500 schools in the UK, providing weekly one-to-one maths sessions for students with tutors based in India and Sri Lanka.
Brainly supports collaboration with a social learning network for students. It has 80 million unique users each month from around the world and encourages peer-to-peer learning.
Content Technologies Inc (CTI) allows teachers to customise textbooks. Educators import a syllabus and CTI’s systems populates a textbook with the content.