Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Last year I read a book by Gary Marx about 16 Trends that will have a profound impact on our future.  Marx now has a new book out called 21 Trends for the 21st Century and we are reading this on R&D and focusing on 6 trends:
  • International/Global - Trend: International learning, including relationships, cultural understanding, languages, and diplomatic skills will become basic.  Isolationist Independence ⇄ Interdependence
  • Technology Trend: Ubiquitous, interactive technology will shape how we live, how we learn, how we see ourselves and how we relate to the world. Macro → Micro → Nano → Subatomic
  • Jobs and Careers Trend: Pressure will grow for society to prepare people for jobs and careers that may not currently exist. Career Preparation ⇄ Employability and Career Adaptability
  • Personalization Trend: In a world of diverse talents and aspirations, we will increasingly discover and accept that one size does not fit all. Standardization → Personalization
  • Ingenuity Trend: Releasing ingenuity and stimulating creativity will become primary responsibilities of education and society. Information Acquisition → Knowledge Creation
  • Education Trend: The breadth, depth, and purposes of education will constantly be clarified to meet the needs of a fast changing world Narrowness → Breadth and Depth
I have written about a number of these trends before, but my group is going to focus on the first one which is away from isolationism and towards interdependence.   This trend is definitely impacted by technology because technology makes it possible for people to work together even though they are physically separated around the world.  One things that really struck me about this trend was the importance NOT on the STEM subjects, which you hear so much about these days, but about how language acquisition and "global competency" will be increasingly important - and the subjects Marx mentions in particular are history and geography as well as languages (being a history and geography graduate and with both my children studying these subjects at university, you can imagine how delighted I was to read this!)

Educating children from a global perspective is essential for them to be able to be productive in a global economy, and interestingly it is not really up to schools to provide this instruction.  Language learning in particular is mentioned as something that is happening outside of formal education through computer software and specific language and cultural training by companies whose employees will be living and working abroad.

Marx writes about population trends and how these people are becoming more connected using social media.  He points out that demonstrations that at one time would have remained fairly localized, haev now led to revolutions, stirred up and directed using social media.   Population itself will increase to over 9 billion by 2050, though this growth is not evenly distributed.  Huge population growth in Africa and Asia will be matched by a decrease of population in other areas such as Europe.  Economic growth rates vary too:  less developed countries will grow by 60%, the more developed countries by less than 5%.

Marx writes about 4 emerging globalization trends:
  • economic integration - mostly trade and foreign investment
  • technological connectivity - through the internet
  • personal contact - as people travel more
  • political engagement - memberships in international organizations, treaties and so on
International relations can also be broken down into different areas:
  • relationships among governments - either because of war/peace or because of environmental concerns
  • business relationships - mostly trade
  • educational and scientific relationships - sharing of information and research
  • personal relationships - stimulated by travel and social media
Marx writes this these trends will lead to the following issues:
  • balancing of international competition with international collaboration - education may make some countries "more competitive" but this needs to be balanced with collaboration to tackle the needs of the planet such as developing renewable sources of energy and protecting the environment
  • the brain drain and the brain gain
  • global challenges and opportunities - energy, environment, water, poverty, terrorism, pandemics, war and peace
Along with the growth of world population will be the growth of mega-cities.  By 2030 the world's urban population will be 5 billion and 60% of these will be under the age of 18 (so consider the effect this will have on education!).  Mega-cities of over 10 million people will probably reach almost 40 by 2025, with 21 of these mega-cities in Asia.  This has led to what Marx describes as the "urbanization of poverty" with marginalization, violence and sub-standard housing along with opportunities for growth and advancement.

On R&D we are focused on how these trends will impact education.  To start with Marx writes that the urgent of international/global learning will grow exponentially and that schools and colleges will be expected to strengthen their international/global education programmes.  Students will need to understand that both common threats and common opportunities can bring us together for a common purpose.  The curriculum should include the building blocks for international/global education - as mentioned earlier these include languages, geography and history, but also a knowledge of international relations, diplomatic skills and cultural understanding, communication skills, civic education, conflict resolution, thinking, reasoning and problem solving skills, the appropriate use of technology and so on.  I was interested to read that attracting and keeping multinational businesses with require an lot of support, including excellent schools and colleges and an interesting and high quality of life.  For an international teacher that is certainly a good thing to read.

Photo Credit: wilmack via Compfight cc

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