Towards the end of 2019, we conducted the Pearson Global Learner Survey. It was the first of its kind; a study that questioned approximately 11,000 learners, in 19 countries. Learners shared their opinions on a wide range of educational topics, such as national education systems, career planning in the age of automation, higher education institutions, technology and globalisation.
What have we learned from the report?
Education was held in high regard by the respondents, both as a passport to a better life but also as central to a sense of identity. A majority of respondents felt that their education has played an important role in shaping who they are as people.
The survey also uncovered changing attitudes towards higher education, a concern with the impact of technology on the job market, and a focus on lifelong learning.
The question is, how to make use of this information when it comes to your students? Here are our five key takeaways from the report with a focus on what impact these results might have in your own classrooms.
1. A more relaxed attitude is emerging towards further education
One of the most interesting findings of the survey was a growing ambivalence towards higher education. Learners in China, Brazil, South Africa, Hispano–America, the Middle East and Europe are firmly convinced of the value of formal education when it comes to achieving career ambitions. However, learners in the UK, Australia and North America weren’t so sure, with around half of the respondents believing that college degrees are not a vital ingredient for success.
What does this mean for teachers?
It ’s important to show students that there is more than one way to find success. When you’re discussing your students’ futures, don’t dismiss the value of vocational training or apprenticeships.
Celebrate non-academic achievements. The next time you’re inviting guest speakers into your classroom, an idea is to invite someone who had success as a tradesperson, an entrepreneur, or in another vocation that didn’t require a university education. This way, you’re supporting students to achieve their own goals, even if those goals don’t include going to university.
2. The traditional career path is a thing of the past
Learners nowadays have a reinvention mindset, believing that traditional ideas of retirement will give way to second careers, part-time jobs or even starting their own businesses.
Globally, 70% of learners in our survey think that working for a single employer for your entire career is an old-fashioned concept. 84% of respondents believe their career path will be significantly different from that of their parents or grandparents.
How can we reflect this new reality of diverse career paths and a shifting job market?
Students often express anxiety about making the right choice when it comes to their post-school plans. As a teacher, you are uniquely placed to reassure them that it’s likely that they will change jobs at various points over their careers, so they should experiment and work in areas that they find interesting. In the long term, their employability skills will be more important.
3. Learning is becoming lifelong, self-directed and digital
Interestingly, the survey uncovered a new do-it-yourself attitude towards learning, over the course of a lifetime. This is perhaps a reflection on the more relaxed attitude towards formal education and traditional career paths.
61% of learners globally believe that the world is shifting to a model where people participate in education over a lifetime. Most agreed that lifelong learning is essential to stay relevant in your career. What’s more, people view technology as a way to support their learning, making the process easier and more fun.
How can teachers reinforce the idea of life-long education?
As teachers, you can reinforce this positive vision of lifelong education by giving your students lots of opportunities for independent learning and digital learning. By emphasising all the opportunities for learning outside the classroom, at the weekend or in the evenings, through reading, gaming or exploring new hobbies, we can turn self-directed learning into a positive habit.
It’s also good to set a positive example for students by talking and reflecting on your own learning. Whether it’s professional training or something that you’re learning about outside your career.
4. Soft skills will be the key to succeeding in an automated job market
The survey revealed that 78% of learners across the world want to improve their soft skills of creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving. STEM skills haven’t been forgotten, but 87% of respondents believe that these human skills will be important when it comes to career development in the future job market. However, they feel that educational systems aren’t currently meeting this need.
How can teachers bring soft skills into their classrooms?
Well, it’s a good idea to learn about these 21st-century skills yourself, and start working with colleagues on how to incorporate them across the curriculum. On a small scale, you can keep them at the forefront when it comes to lesson planning, by looking at each activity and trying to maximise opportunities for collaboration, for example, or cultural sensitivity.
5. Learners are worried about social media and cyber-bullying
67% of learners globally agreed that the prevalence of social media has made the school environment more difficult for students today. 79% of people who responded to the survey also believe that bullying, both in-person and online, has made school a harder experience than it was 25 years ago.
How can teachers address learners’ anxiety?
An important start is by making space in your classroom to talk about these worries. Being targeted on social media can have a significant impact on students, but there are strategies which you can employ to help protect your students from cyberbullying. After all, educators all over the world want the experience of going to school to be a safe, happy and inspiring one.
The world is changing and so must education
The overall message of the Pearson Global Learner Survey is that the global job market is changing, and education has to follow suit. If we embrace this message, we can become leaders in supporting the next generation in this new economy. In the words of our CEO John Fallon, “the advances of the 21st century have given us the greatest opportunity in human history to improve lives through education.”
So let’s get to work!