Friday insights round-up lite: spotlight on OECD trends report

25 January 2019

This week our Impact Manager, Caitlin, has been attending the LearnIt Conference where Big Change MD Essie North had the pleasure of interviewing Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills, and lead a panel of pioneers of change. Two of our project partners, Jen Lexmond of EasyPeasy and Matt Hood of Institute for Teaching also made appearances at LearnIt.

There’s more to come on insights from the conference next week, so today Caitlin has a special Friday Insights – Lite with a spotlight on key takeaways from the OECD Trends Shaping Education report which was released on Monday.

We hope this gets you thinking about what the future of learning looks like!

Three thought provoking insights

The OECD states that linking education to societal mega-trends (globalisation, citizenship, security, lifelong learning and modern culture shifts) is important because it helps education to deliver its mission of helping individuals develop as persons, citizens and professionals. This involves a collective mind shift around the purpose of education specifically that it has to exist for more than just knowledge transfer and compliance

Early years and inclusion feature heavily across the five trends in the report. According to the OECD, bolstering early years will be crucial in helping students cope with the effects of globalisation and to become good citizens. Inclusion also features as a key ingredient for tackling inequality, which is a theme that runs through all five megatrends.

In terms of technology, we’ve moved away from identifying it as a key change in and of itself, and more as a factor or condition that serves as a thread through all five megatrends – building ICT skills to adapt to modern cultural shifts, using tech as a tool for lifelong learning, teaching cyber security to cope with more complex security needs, using tech platforms to encourage civic engagement, and to support the global knowledge economy.

Essie North interviewing Andreas Schleicher OECD at Learnit
Essie North interviewing Andreas Schleicher OECD at LearnIt

Below Caitlin also summarises the reports views on how education needs to adapt to the changing world around us:

Shifting global gravity

Shifting global gravity education can make globalisation work for all, and combat climate change and inequality. The good news is we are seeing a growing middle class, cheaper transport and communications, but on the flipside we’re also experiencing growing consumption, unsustainable resources, and growing inequity.

To adapt to this, education must:

  • Ensure global competence: expand students’ worldviews and abilities to examine local, global and intercultural issues, equip students to take action for sustainable development, encourage further connectivity
  • Increase/support mobility: support for recent arrivals, adapt pedagogy to reflect cultural diversity, recognize qualifications of migrants and refugees, foster international collaboration
  • Support knowledge economy: reinforce research and development with international researchers, foster innovations in STEM and art, establish partnerships between education institutions and start ups
  • Address inequality: adapt international education goals to meet a local context, prevent brain drain through education and skill systems, provide high quality early years care

Public matters

Education can improve civic and social participation, increase democratic citizenship. Social media can increase (and is increasing) civic engagement but the rise of fake news coupled with rising inequality is leading to a decline in trust, and to political and social unrest.

To adapt to this, education must:

  • Ensure equity: high quality early years, increase permeability between education pathways, support for disadvantaged students to complete tertiary education
  • Bolster democratic citizenship: help students understand democratic rights and the social and organizational skills necessary for civic engagement, establish participatory governance in schools, teach critical thinking and tolerance
  • Ensure inclusiveness: develop potential of all students and challenge stereotypes, fight segregation, address urban/rural divide, help educational facilities stimulate small communities
  • Adapt to modern governance: practice participatory decision making, conduct evaluations and assessments to collect relevant data, support education networks to address knowledge and capacity gaps


Education can play a role in understanding, preventing and mitigating risks. The good news here is growing affluence, fewer armed conflicts, safer roads, better healthcare. The bad news includes security challenges becoming more complex, such as climate change, cyber terrorism, and drug resistant diseases.

To adapt to this, education must:

  • Protect mind and body: boost health literacy; proper antibiotics use and importance of vaccinations, develop comprehensive safety education, involve more stakeholders in education governance
  • Safeguard cyberspace: teach digital literacy, strengthen digital skills, develop partnerships with industry leaders
  • Respect boundaries: R&D investment to strengthen system defence, teach civic engagement and foster tolerance and resilience, empower students through association and class representatives
  • Preserve the environment: foster clean/green fields of study, promote eco-friendly schools, support research into green tech
  • Secure financial wellbeing: strengthen financial literacy, effective re-training schemes for the unemployed, strengthen apprenticeship models and encourage diverse types of employers

Living longer, living better

Education can better benefit older adults and promote culture of lifelong learning. People are living healthier and longer, possibilities of a ‘silver market’ are emerging, and healthier seniors are wealthier on average. However, chronic diseases like dementia and diabetes are on the rise, shrinking social circles is leading to loneliness, and while the internet can help with this, there is also a rise in internet fraud targeted at seniors.

To adapt to this, education must:

  • Enable life-long learning: foster up-skilling/re-skilling initiatives, ensure all age groups have education that covers their life needs, promote continuous professional development
  • Promote social and emotional wellbeing: teach emotional and social skills for all ages, teacher training and CPD must address wellbeing of adults and children, combat loneliness, isolation and age discrimination
  • Promote physical health and healthy lifestyles: address public health concerns through education and healthcare institutions, promote training in elder care, support medical research
  • Promote intergenerational contact and learning: engage students in community volunteering, provide opportunities to learn from older generations, promote innovative learning arrangements

Modern cultures

Education equips people with necessary skills, knowledge and attitudes to thrive in modern personal and professional lives. The good news: creation of a ‘network society’ means that belonging is changing, but not disappearing. Changing attitudes, family dynamics and gender roles; better paternity leave and more actively parenting fathers, falling gender pay gap. The bad news: there is a declining sense of belonging in a more traditional community sense. What remains to be seen is the impact of the gig economy and what it means for consumption and ownership.

To adapt to this, education must:

  • Promote creativity and entrepreneurship: equip students to become future entrepreneurs by teaching and learning creativity, practice collaborative problem solving
  • Instil values and attitudes: address differences in social values, promote trust and respect between parents, teachers and administrators, develop awareness of and build zero tolerance for discrimination
  • Welcome diverse families: welcome all families, acknowledge and accommodate multicultural backgrounds, create strategies to communicate with all households, traditional or not
  • Bridge digital divides: equip all students with skills for the digital world, foster digital knowledge in teachers, foster positive use and attitudes toward Information and Communication Technology

Read the full Trends Shaping Education 2019 report here