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Is transformational change needed for education?

Shelf of Gradient Transformational vs. Incremental Change

There is a shared understanding in the literature that today’s schooling follows an outdated model which can be dated back to the Industrial Revolution. In addition, most authors agree that what future education needs is a transformative and fundamental change to keep up with the pace of change mainly brought by socio-economic developments and environmental crises. Either schools change intentionally and in an organized manner or they will find themselves overrun by external pressures and dynamics.

However, few authors noted that education systems are overall slow to adapt, therefore requiring education policies to take a realistic stand on aspiration versus reality and inertness. There are even authors deeming it possible to address today’s and future challenges by fixing the current educational system.

With the pandemic-induced school closures, the literature became more critical of transformational change as this comes with the risk of leaving huge groups of learners behind. Thus, authors began pointing out basic flaws in our education systems, suggesting more incremental changes.


Excerpts from the literature

“A rethinking of four of the organizational premises of our schools is necessary to prepare for this normal: the teaching session, the concept of a ‘a teacher’, the curriculum, and assessments.  21st century digital education cannot mimic the Victorian school. Class sizes of thirty did not work in real time and are even more disastrous online.”

  • This quote is extracted from a news report titled “Experts explore the future of education following Covid-19” on the University of West London website, written by Caston and published in 2020. The author explores the need for major changes in how we deliver education to children in the aftermath of Covid-19 school closures.


“We are on the cusp of a major transformation. The acceleration of external megatrends - including technological and societal changes - are expected to push higher education institutions (especially in high-income countries) towards offering more relevant, affordable, and flexible academic programs"


“The schools of the future will use the potential of technologies to liberate learning from past conventions and connect learners in new and powerful ways, with new sources of knowledge, innovative applications, and one another”

  • This quote is extracted from a report titled “Educating Learners for Their Future, Not Our Past” written by Schleicher and published in 2018. Under heading ‘The Changing Face of a Successful School System’ the author makes the case that in the past schools were technological islands, with technology often limited to supporting existing practices, and students outpacing schools in their adoption and consumption of technology.


“Nonetheless, my position is that, as a basis for imagining and creating alternative education futures, and indeed, for the aspirations for democracy to which this handbook aspires, we have to think our way out of these tendencies and open up new orientations to the future that treat it as a site of radical possibility”

  • This quote is extracted from a chapter “Using the Future in Education: Creating Space for Openness, Hope and Novelty” (Book: The Palgrave International Handbook of Alternative Education) written by Facer and published in 2016. The author hopes to distinguish between the tactit, fantastical and often colonising invocations for the future that can characterize contemporary educational usage, and the intentional and reflective attempt to open up the possibilities of working with the future that might offer a more democratic basis of educational practice.


“Traditional tools, policies and structures are insufficient to address these challenges. Progress requires new data, new narratives, new dialogue, new tools, new behavior and new collaboration”

  • This quote is extracted from a report titled “Shaping the Future of Education, Gender and Work” by the World Economic Forum and published in 2018. The report seeks to ensure that talent is developed, nurtured and deployed for maximum benefit to the economy and society by mobilizing business, governments, civil society and other leaders to rethink education, close skills gaps, accelerate gender parity and boost employment.


“It is clear that the development of AI in education is rapidly changing conventional thinking about teaching and learning. Traditional models of schools and classrooms are likely to see dramatic changes over the coming years and decades as technological advances filter down into educational institutions”

  • This quote is extracted from a book titled “Artificial Intelligence and Inclusive Education” written by Knox, Wang, Gallagher and published in 2019. This book brings together the fields of artificial intelligence (often known as A.I.) and inclusive education in order to speculate on the future of teaching and learning in increasingly diverse social, cultural, emotional, and linguistic educational contexts.


 “Educational systems must be transformed beyond recognition if humanity is to survive the planetary crises currently underway. Human development and learning must be understood as the Earth’s most valuable resources, with human potential serving as the open frontier into which energy and hope can begin to flow”


“An individual scale school is a disastrous invention for many people (people being paid to do the job, convinced it is their responsibility to make others learn; and students, convinced they need these paid adults to learn in order to succeed in life). Everybody is unhappy in their role, and I think it does not help people to get the best out of their lives. So, I think for the future of the individuals involved, the best thing would be to quit, like deciding to break up a marriage that does not work”

  • This quote is extracted from a book titled “Emerging Education Futures: Experiences and visions from the field” written by Moravec and Killorn, published in 2019 from the essay Does the future need schools? What are Schools really for? This part of the book departs from experiences and focuses on visions and ideas, providing space for creativity and inspiration to emerge.


“H.F. Cline suggests that higher education is seen as one of the most “resistant social institutions ever created” ingrained in instructional methods of teaching and very slow to adapt to the changing realities of technology. Thus, “educators unlearn their teaching practices in traditional classroom model and integrate information and communication technology (ICT) in their teaching, to benefit from endless future opportunities”

  • This quote is extracted from a journal article titled “Preparing for the future of higher education” written by Ahmad and published in 2015. This paper aims to assist lecturers, universities and their administrators in preparing for the evolving future of higher education. Disruptive innovations in higher education delivery, with the internet as a driver, are creating potential benefits and challenges for traditional service providers.


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