Long-Term Global Challenges in education: Are There Feasible Steps Today? (Chapter 3 from Shaping Tomorrow Today)

This chapter raises two sets of issues. The first is the current status of the level and distribution of measured learning achievement and whether students emerging from schools around the world are ready for the economy of today (much less the next 40 years of their working lives). This breaks into three distinct concerns: (1) the failure of most countries of the world to produce students with even minimally adequate levels of actual learning, (2) the long-run stagnation of measured learning achievement in nearly every single OECD country—in spite of massively increasing inputs, and (3) the question of the educational preparation of superstars in an increasingly global market for top talent.

The second issues are about the structure of educational systems themselves. Most countries have educational systems that were developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and that are almost identical now to the systems as they consolidated in the 1950s. In almost no area of activity has there been as little organisational and systemic innovation as in the production of schooling—which perhaps helps explain the outcomes observed. The question is whether the existing educational systems, as systems, are sufficiently adaptive so as to make short-run accommodations add up to adequate long-run change. In the author’s view, this is an open, not rhetorical, question.

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