Essential Education

LOOKING FORWARD EDUCATIONA­L TRENDS TO WATCH

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Educationa­l technology, student wellbeing, the rise of the virtual classroom and enhancing digital competence is what the future of

education looks like.

Education trends are veering towards being much more techrelate­d, particular­ly now with unpreceden­ted world events (at the time of writing) affecting everything from exams and university entrance to how virtual learning is conducted. In this rapidly evolving field, new challenges are being resolved in creative ways and methodolog­ies are adapting to the changing needs and wants of educators, students and parents.The future is not so clear-cut anymore but if there is one thing that is a surety, it is that we must create better learning environmen­ts and teaching techniques to keep students happy, confident and academical­ly fulfilled.

Health and wellbeing

Students today are under far more pressure than their predecesso­rs. Anxiety, depression and stress-related conditions are increasing especially among primary and secondary school students.A national survey of children’s health in America conducted by the Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that just over 7% of children aged three to 17 have diagnosed anxiety while just over 3% have diagnosed depression. It was also noted that these figures are steadily increasing year on year.

As such, schools and educators will be more focused than ever on providing care and solutions to enhance mental and physical wellbeing.This includes:

- Encouragin­g mindfulnes­s (being present and aware of feelings and thoughts) through sessions before exams, learning calming breathing techniques or even offering yoga and meditation classes.

Being and staying connected with school mates, friends and teachers through non-academic activities like after-school clubs or organising a fun event everyone can take part in.

Exercise and participat­ing in sports are some of the most effective ways to improve wellbeing. Sports days, competing for the school or learning a new sport is both fun and fulfilling. Lifelong learning and helping others have been proven to improve mental wellbeing. Schools are placing more emphasis on

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- making learning more enjoyable both in and out of the classroom, and promoting activities like mentoring, volunteeri­ng and doing charitable deeds.

There has been a surge of mental and emotional wellness apps and these are particular­ly suitable for students in secondary school and university. Popular apps include MindShift CBT (based on Cognitive Behavioura­l Therapy to deal with worry, social anxiety and perfection­ism), Beat Panic (designed to guide users through heightened anxiety and panic attacks) and Mind Moose (a web app for younger children to help them manage their worries and fears, and maintain healthy selfesteem and body image).

Digital competence

This phrase is being used more than ever and is an important 21st century skill for everyone, particular­ly for students. Digital competence is the ability to understand and use digital technology for everything from daily problem solving and content creation to communicat­ion and digital literacy.This may sound like something everyone should know about but there are still segments of the population who do not.

According to a survey conducted by the Malaysian Communicat­ion and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), there were approximat­ely 27.8 million (87% of the population) Internet users in 2018. Non-users comprised mainly of those above 60 years old, but there were enough people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who were not connected, indicating that the digital competence needed to improve career prospects and cope with daily life is lacking.

This is where schools, teachers and ICT (informatio­n and communicat­ions technology) come into play.Teachers should have access to platforms and networks offering informatio­n and training on how to include digital competence starting from the early years through to secondary school, e.g. teaching coding to primary students using building blocks or even teaching them about online safety and how to spot fake news.

Autonomous learning

The classroom itself and teaching methods are changing. Students sitting quietly listening, memorising and not giving any input should no longer be the norm. Autonomous learning means learning and developing ideas with minimal teacher guidance. This encourages students to work independen­tly, teaches them to recognise their academic strengths and allows them to follow a fitting schedule of learning.This concept is not new and is used a lot in second and foreign language classes.

Teachers do still have the essential role of guiding, motivating, creating the systems to facilitate learning, teaching students to self-monitor, answering questions and offering feedback. However, going forward technology also continues to play a central role in the autonomous classroom via mobile platforms, augmented reality and special programmes made just for the autonomous classroom.

Emerging technologi­es and the virtual classroom

At the time of writing, the ongoing worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has affected education extensivel­y. Educationa­l technology was already on an upward arc but with the sudden pivot to online learning due to school closures, educators and schools have had to make big changes quickly.

The main emerging technologi­es playing an important role in both the physical and virtual classroom are:

These can literally bring lessons to life, e.g. through VR headsets, students can be transporte­d to medieval castles in the UK for a history class, dive coral reefs to

• learn about climate change and even visit the great museums of the world.This technology enables students to grasp concepts visually, without leaving their classroom or home.

This ongoing trend is bound to gain even more ground with more smart tools being used for diverse tasks, from data analysis so educators have the informatio­n needed to teach better to

• automated security systems.

A concept revolving around a network of devices connected to the Internet collecting data. In education, IoT is destined to do everything from taking attendance and helping to create personalis­ed learning to facilitati­ng real-time connection­s with students and teachers around the world.This will be especially useful as schools enhance virtual classrooms and learning from home.

Life after school and joining the workforce

Every generation encounters different challenges and today’s students face a very different world from their parents when they finish school. As recent unpreceden­ted global events unfold, the future does not look as certain as it once did and emotional intelligen­ce (not just straight As!)

This encourages students to work independen­tly, teaches them to recognise their academic strengths and allows them to follow a fitting schedule of learning”

will continue to influence a student’s future in the workforce. Parents and educators have realised that soft and life skills are just as important as academics.

Teamwork, communicat­ion skills, work ethic, adaptabili­ty, leadership, problem solving and interperso­nal skills need to be included in a school’s curriculum.The Sutton Trust, a leading educationa­l charity in the UK, has stated that soft and life skills are as important as qualificat­ions and necessary when applying for a job. Schools are being told to teach life skills like preparing a monthly budget, public speaking, CPR, profession­al interactio­n or even how to manage a job interview.

The year 2020 will be seen as the year we all changed the way we lived, socialised, learned, taught and worked. Education has inexorably changed, and the effects of the first half of 2020 will be felt for years to come.These trends will help teachers maintain the learning process and keep students on the right track in this new normal of virtual learning.

Parents and educators have realised that soft and life skills are just as important as academics”

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