Introduction

Education of young people is a key part of solutions to the world’s major problems. But education systems globally will have to significantly improve what they enable young people to achieve if the full potential of education is to be realised.

Even in countries where there is close to 100% literacy there are many whose literacy is inadequate for them to play a full part in society and to be able to do the knowledge-worker jobs that are replacing many manual labour jobs. Even many students who achieve the higher levels of qualification are criticised by employers for their lack of business and soft skills.

Different areas of the world are struggling with different problems in improving the learning of their young people. The phrase ‘education system’ should be considered to include all aspects of young peoples’ learning. The balance between formal schooling and learning that happens independently of schooling varies. Indeed one of the main conclusions in our previous study is that in developed countries this balance has gone awry and needs to be reconsidered.

Under-developed areas have difficulties creating educational infrastructure and in finding teachers. For them the first goal is to achieve 100% involvement in education by young people. However in the process of doing this they may create education systems that surpass established education systems in the learning they generate. For these areas the education of girls is a particular issue as it bears so strongly on how the world addresses the problem of population growth.

Developed world approaches have children in schools but are failing to properly engage many of them in learning. There are wide differences in levels of achievement between pupils and between countries. The case can also be made that these schooling systems are failing to equip young people with many of the skills they will need in life and that this is being addressed, to greater or lesser extent, by their families and community contracts.

The developing digital aspect of the world, connectedness and pervasive computing power, provides a massive opportunity to improve learning radically. Schools or other community organisations such as libraries were formerly the only places where the majority of the population could access knowledge and people to help them learn. This is no longer the case, with the internet now giving wide access to knowledge and people.

However extending learning is not simply a matter of giving all young people access to the internet. There are strong forces resisting teachers, families and young people who try to capitalise on this massive opportunity. These forces restrict learning by failing to empower and skill young people to use these opportunities and instead endeavour to control, dictate and limit access and to marginalise learning that happens independently of these controls. These forces, that act separately as well sometimes in unison, include governments, schools, accreditation organisations, commercial companies and individual teachers and parents. Thankfully there are other governments, schools, accreditation organisations, commercial companies and individual teachers and parents who are pressing for the changes that will enable learning and achievement to move to a new level of maturity – though they are currently in the minority in many countries.

This project has been established to marshal evidence and views on how education needs to change for the digital connected world, and to describe what the new level of maturity of education systems and learning looks like. It is a developing project as new evidence is emerging all the time. You will therefore find sections of the work at different levels of development.

The sections can be addressed in any order, however we feel the logical order is:

– Assessment of why current education systems are inadequate and validation of the notion that education systems can move to a new level of maturity and effectiveness.

– Analysis of the components of education systems that need to  be fundamentally reviewed and re-thought.

– Presentation of the possibilities for future education systems.

– Analysis of the nature of learning and how this relates to our digital age.

– Consideration of the steps that should be taken by all players and presentation of the vanguard organisations that demonstrate the possibilities and successful approaches.