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Future trends for education

One of the most enjoyable parts of being an educator is that we not only get to predict the future, but have a responsibility to try to do so. Happily, lots of people who work in education are practiced professionals at “futurism” so those of us in the trenches have a lot of help. It doesn’t take much imagination to see why prediction of the future is important for education — we’re trying to prepare our student-clients for a world that we can only imagine.
We know that the influence and role of technology will increase. It is likely that machines, technological applications, communication-tech, and automation will make much of the future world that our students will inhabit one that we wouldn’t recognize if dropped into it tomorrow. The rapid, but still incremental, development of technology has profound implications on how we teach.

It is no longer enough to teach kids by requiring memorization of facts or even teaching them ‘how to’ skills. They need to learn coping, adapting, applying skills that will help them master new technologies that don’t even exist today.

The 21st Century Committee of the Texas Association of School Boards recently commissioned a study of the forces that are reshaping Texas public education. Many trends of social and demographic change were identified, most of which are evident in Ennis schools as well as in schools state-wide. There is a continuing shift from rural to urban in population distribution. Texas is somewhat ahead of the national curve in this area. 75.2 percent of the national population lives in urban areas, while in Texas that number is 80 percent. There are 23 different population centers in Texas with more than 100,000 residents.

Demographically, communities like Ennis, in close proximity to Dallas, are considered “edge cities” — a developmental phenomenon that is creating profound changes in infrastructure development (roads, utilities, transportation, city/urban planning).

Another identified trend, and one that is evident in Ennis and other smaller towns, is the aging of the population. By 2010, it is estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau that the fastest-growing group in the U.S. population will be those over 55, predicted to number over 97 million. Several social implications can be expected from this shift. Public education is less likely to be a priority focus for this demographic. Instead, issues related to health care and retirement are more likely to be of stronger interest.

Some of the other challenges of the future that were identified by the 21st Century Committee are the technological changes will affect how and where education is delivered. Today, distance learning and interactive web-based instruction is utilized often enough that it is no longer a novelty. That greatly impacts what has been the traditional roles teacher and student.

A second identified trend is that academic standards and accountability will continue to grow in importance. With the expansion of federal regulations, such as No Child Left Behind, public education from state to state is likely to become more nearly uniform.

Debate will continue concerning the loss of local options as uniform standards are adopted. A third identified trend is diversity in learning needs. Not only will students of the near future present different language and cultural needs, but they will also bring a variety of economic levels, values systems, and health needs.

This vibrant and fluid future requires that education systems be able to identify and analyze challenges and present solutions that provide optimal educational environments for all the diverse young learners we are given. Ennis ISD is well-equipped in technology, facilities, and its outstanding teaching staff to meet the many challenges of the future.

Barbara Qualls is the superintendent of Ennis Independent School District.

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Posted by on Sep 29 2009. Filed under Editorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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