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Why academies are choosing a new approach for global success

Ahead of the election, Sam Blyth, Director of Schools and Further Education at Canvas, discusses what the education sector needs to do differently

Posted by Lucinda Reid | May 13, 2017 | Technology

Tasked with guiding and inspiring the next generation of global citizens, as well as fuelling the employment market with talented recruits, educators have always faced stern and pressing challenges.

But, in the face of dwindling budgets, increasing populations, and unprecedented global competition, the task has never been harder. With a universal focus on price, accessibility and reach, education is now in real danger of becoming a mass-produced, unspecialised product significantly diminishing in value.

As the UK faces a general election, greater investment into education is top of mind for everyone. Political leaders, analysts, teachers and parents have all called for more budget, a focus on the core curriculum, a back-to-basics approach to delivery, and the need for more teachers.

New problems. Old solutions?

When it comes to industry developments, academies are often looked to as the vanguards of change. With more freedom to innovate, and to control their own destiny, our academy customers tell us that conventional solutions aren’t enough to address the new issues faced by the global education industry.

The demands of an unpredictable employment market, where automation threatens many traditional jobs, mean that academies are looking again at the education they provide. When the application of expertise in decision-making becomes increasingly important to employers, then they tell us that learning by rote—where theoretical knowledge is most valued—is no longer the best way to equip school leavers with the skills they need for the workplace.

Instead, academies are focused on providing skills capable of morphing to suit the changing workspace. Rather than encouraging the development of narrow skillsets that can (and ultimately will) be commoditized, teachers are laying the groundwork that encourages the development of a polymathic mindset.

A holistic approach to change

These forward looking academies have support in organisations like UNESCO, who are promoting new approaches. Recognising that traditional schooling is just one part of readying young people to work and live in a new and increasingly digital landscape, UNESCO urges educators to look more holistically at the teaching and learning experience. 

The organisation prioritises four pillars of learning: learning to know, learning to do, learning to be and learning to live together. This more rounded approach to education moves beyond the classroom and develops the skills and knowledge for lifelong learning.

Four routes to success

Led by the guiding principles of UNESCO, we believe that all educators across the globe must prioritise four key areas in order to deliver the best and most compelling education experience.

1.     Digital citizenship

All levels of schooling have a key role in preparing young people to participate in an increasingly dense landscape of technology and media developments. Just as traditional subjects provide young people with the knowledge and skills to make sense of their world—including its history, geography, religions, languages and sciences—education should also supply the knowledge to make sense of the digital world.

2.     A focus on practical knowledge

Prioritising the application of knowledge and critical thinking is a significant pedagogical shift from theoretical and rote learning. But the ability to solve real-world problems is vital in developing the necessary skills to secure employment and thrive in the workforce. A skills-focused learning approach has a critical role in ensuring the success of the entire employment ecosystem, from individuals’ careers to the prosperity of businesses, industries and economies.

3.     A community approach to education

When students work together, their performance is enhanced. But comprehensive collaboration, or connected learning, is more than just bringing teacher feedback online and offering pupils the right to reply. It’s the foundation of helping young people learn to live together; it’s forming communication skills which will influence every aspect of their lives. A holistic approach to connected learning combines peer-to-peer engagement, reciprocal teaching and parent-teacher collaboration.

4.     New methods of measurement

Just as educators need to provide a rounded education, they must also embrace a rounded approach to measurement, which assesses much more than academic achievement. Mirroring the use of data in the commercial world, we now see more sophisticated adoption of analytics in education. Used correctly, data can help educators understand students’ learning behaviours, which courses are being consumed, and where students are excelling or struggling. Harnessing data allows teachers to personalise learning journeys and demonstrate added value.

The essential role of technology

Meeting these challenges will be no easy feat, and the pressure to offer new education models means that new delivery methods are required.

Technology to assist the delivery of an engaging and motivating education experience is not a luxury—it’s now a necessity. Technologies like Canvas are already helping academies change pedagogy and deliver a flexible, progressive and student-centred approach which focuses on meeting these challenging demands.

But even more importantly, these new challenges call for us all to work together. Today more than ever, teachers, parents, governments, financiers, technologists and students must all come together to share experiences and collaboratively solve the biggest challenges the industry has ever had to face.

For more information about Canvas, visit their website.  

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