Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Does education hold the key as the world catches up?

EdTech and International Competition

Competitivity and the new challenges technology poses

In this country we enjoy a very privileged life style. It may not always feel like it, if you are crammed in a hot, crowded underground train or trying to get a plumber to fix a central heating boiler during the cold snap. However, these examples show how much we take for granted in modern life – indeed it is hard to think what life would be like without such facilities! We live in the developed world, but the majority of the population comprise the developing world. They are playing catch up and they are playing it for real.

March 12, 2012 was a big day – the world’s population passed the 7 billion mark. Around 1 billion are in the developed world. Half of the world population live in China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh. From the developed world, only the USA, Russia and Japan make it into the top ten in population terms. We enjoy a standard of living that most of the world only dreams about. But that is changing; they are beginning to see these dreams becoming achievable as globalisation brings new technologies to low cost economies. Most of manufacturing will continue to move to the lowest cost areas and will drip down the ability to earn more and spend more to achieve the comforts and material possessions of life that we’ve enjoyed for decades.

The question that has to be asked is “Can we continue to maintain an advantage as some traditional economic bases are eroded and higher technology and service industries begin to follow the movement offshore?”

The answer will be “Yes”, only if we are able to differentiate, grow and improve our products and for that we need a first class education system to train and develop the best students in the world. The world is indeed catching up – stating the obvious, don’t you think? And they are doing it through hunger for a better life, ambition to have better jobs and hard work to achieve their goals. So, we must continue to push standards up in education and to produce students able to take on the best in the world. We have got a head start: educational facilities that would be the envy of most of the developing world. Indeed, at independent schools and universities, the appearance of more and more overseas students, usually from the Far East and Russia seems to confirm this. Yet this is a worry too. As some schools begin to cash in on this interest, often by establishing satellite schools in the foreign countries mentioned, there is a concern that the majority of the nation’s schoolgoers may fall behind. So, to maintain advantage is essential to maintaining our standard of living  ̶  and education is at the heart of this.

Maintaining advantage amidst international competition


The key to ensuring excellence in education is to stand comparison with other countries. There are many sources of information on the web that can give a bewildering picture and the topic is rarely out of the news. With differing assessment regimes and different cultural approaches to education, accurate and meaningful comparisons can be elusive. The real threat is that the developing countries, despite relatively poor resources (large class sizes, limited equipment), have students that are motivated, hardworking and determined. We are criticised for seeming to be well off, complacent and lazy.

On the assessment front, new international GCSEs are in vogue and these can be obtained all over the globe. Plans are being made for more challenging examinations here in the UK, so it is more vital than ever that our students have the finest resources available to get the best out of their talents and abilities. LearnersCloud is one such example, combining tutor-led  videos with test and learn questions, students can harness the accessibility and functionality of their smart devices to support and encourage learning.

There are pockets of new movements in education that engage students in this way and motivate them to a higher level of learning. But more can be done, young learners are digitally focussed and so our methods of teaching and delivering education must adapt to ensure we sustain our advantage.

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