Exploring the Future of Education

Exploring the future of education.

Most students in Panama have finally been able to return to in-person classes. Still many are struggling to adjust, some have transferred to public education from private schools, and unfortunately too many have decided not to return. The 2022 school year is sure to be arduous, given that learning communities continue to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we return to in-person classes we wonder, what are we doing to shape the future of education?

Over the summer break, we have been pondering, what does the future of learning look like? We decided to do some research and learned some interesting ideas and questions that we would like to share. 

In an article published on the World Economic Forum’s website, titled “What will education look like in 20 years? Here are four scenarios,”  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, shares some compelling scenarios and questions for the future of education, and schools. The scenarios laid out speak to schooling being extended, supporting more individualized learning. Another scenario imagines a future in which education is outsourced as traditional schooling changes, and other privatized and flexible arrangements appear with technology as a key driver. For example, offering online certification programs. Schools might also become Learning Hubs, similar to what we are doing at the Forum Foundation Community Center. Schools become more connected to the communities they serve, offering more forms of learning, civic engagement, and social innovation.  Lastly, learn-as-you-go is a scenario in which education happens everywhere at any time, blurring the lines between formal and informal learning.

Questions posed by the OECD are equally compelling; What is the right balance between modernizing and disruption? How do we reconcile new goals with old structures?

How do we support globally minded and locally rooted students and teachers?

How do we leverage new potential with existing capacity?

How do we reconfigure the spaces, the people, the time and the technologies to create powerful learning environments?

In the case of disagreement, whose voice counts?

Who is responsible for the most vulnerable members of our society? The article goes on to say.

“If global digital corporations are the main providers, what kind of regulatory regime is required to solve the already thorny questions of data ownership, democracy, and citizen empowerment?

This is not a cry of despair says the OECD– rather, it is a call to action. Education must be ready. We know the power of humanity and the importance of learning and growing throughout our life. We insist on the importance of education as a public good, regardless of the scenario for the future.”

The Harvard Graduate School of Education has also given the future of education some thought and discussion. In an online article and video chat, experts in education shared What the Future of Education looks like from Here.  Highlighting demographic and technological changes, firmer mandates for access and equity,  and whole-child, human-centered commitments amid growing global connections. To mark the end of its centennial year, HGSE convened a faculty-led discussion to explore those questions. The Future of Education panel, moderated by Dean Bridget Long and hosted by HGSE’s Ask with Forums, focused on hopes for education going forward.

“For technological advancements.

As educators and leaders create, design, and imagine the future, technology should be used in service of that vision rather than dictating it. As technology becomes a major part of how we communicate and share ideas, educators need to think critically about how to deploy technology strategically. ‘My stance on technology is that it should always be used in the service of our human purpose and interest,’ said Brennan.”

This is certainly important in the learning communities we serve. As we shift to in-person classes, it is important that teachers continue to leverage technology especially as students recover from learning loss. Tools like Whatsapp chats are sure to continue to prove useful, as their potential for one on one support and problem-solving is further leveraged by educators as well as our staff and volunteers at Forum Foundation. Nonetheless, challenges remain with many communities in the mountains of rural Coclef, where poor signal, lack of electricity, or lack of data means they struggle to connect to receive the assistance they need.

“The article goes on to say:

Human connections and interactions are at the heart of education. At this time, it’s become abundantly clear that the role of the teacher in the school community is irreplaceable. “I think the next few years hinge on how much we’re willing to invest in educators and all of these additional supports in the school which essentially make learning possible,” Umaña-Taylor said, “these are the individuals who are making the future minds of the nation possible.”

We couldn’t agree more. Teachers are essential and we are committed to providing the support we can through our Community Center and community support programs. Although Panama, the Mountains of Cocle, and the communities we work with are different from those in the United States. In a globally connected world, we can better inform how we might help shape the future of education, by learning from others. 


“As the world, we live in changes to embrace tech futures, how and what we teach in our education system will also be reshaped to keep up to date with the growing demands of the 21st century,” says the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in their article,  The Future of Learning and Teaching big changes ahead.

RMIT School of Education Professor Tricia McLaughlin spoke about four key ways education is set to change in the near future. Ideas closely aligned to some of what was mentioned in the articles we have already discussed. The four highlighted changes are: 

  1. Connectedness, collaboration, and co-creation; The formal classroom will be replaced by learning areas that allow individuals, small groups, or larger groups to collaborate face-to-face or virtually on learning projects.
  2. Anywhere, anytime learning
  3. Customisation for a learner-first approach

“Most professions treat each individual’s case differently – each patient of a doctor has individualized treatment plans. Education should be no different,” McLaughlin says.

This is precisely the approach are using at the  Community Center in Caimito. There is no standard package of help we provide learners. Rather, we assist families and students, to help us understand their learning needs, and deliver tailored assistance. 

“McLaughlin says the old ‘one model of teaching and learning fits all’ is outdated and has no place in the agenda for future education. Teachers will become facilitators of learning and students will have more control of their own learning journey. “In the past, all children did the same work regardless of ability or skills. We now know that this contributes to disengagement, misbehavior, and poor outcomes,” she says. As a result, teachers will have individualized learning plans for students, which will enable each student to learn at a pace that best suits their abilities and to engage with content that is most beneficial to them.”

The concept of empowerment is especially compelling to our work at Forum Foundation. With the risk of students dropping out of school, it becomes increasingly important to empower students to take ownership of their learning and persevere. Part of our success during these difficult years has been focused on this very idea. By providing peer-to-peer tutoring and support. Students receiving the support, see what is possible if they are able to continue on and succeed. 

“4. Putting testing to the test

McLaughlin poses the question “what are we testing for?”

Education of the future will prove what you have been told many times before: results do not define you.“We too easily jump onto the test results in isolation of what we need to achieve. This can lead us off in the wrong direction to what’s really important,” she says.

“Grading is a waste of time if its purpose is solely to point out who is at the top and who is at the bottom. Assessments in the future will be evidence-based, using measures that allow learning plans to be drawn up and personalized.“The big question is ‘why are we grading and for whom?’,” McLaughlin says. “Surely we want a society in which everyone is able to do the job and elements of it competently. Do exams really prepare us for this future?”

Although we recognize that grading and exams are important. We want to be able to offer students opportunities to learn through experience, helping strengthen the competencies and skills needed to be skilled and resourceful problem solvers and lifelong learners. 

“Educators of the future. Curriculum teaching and learning already extend well beyond the classroom and will continue to do so, and as education changes to suit the future’s needs, the role of a teacher must also adapt and grow. It is each teacher’s responsibility to empower students to take risks, be innovative and seize any opportunity thrown their way. In light of a shift towards a more personalized learner experience, teachers of the future must be prepared to be data collectors, as well as analysts, planners, collaborators, curriculum experts, synthesizers, problem-solvers, and researchers.” It is therefore important for Forum Foundation to find ways in which we can further support educators in our learning community so they can help offer more students personalized learning experiences. 

Another organization that is always thinking about how the present is shaping the future of education is the Alliance for Self-Directed Learning. There is a brilliant video on YouTube by Peter Gray ASDE President, we have linked it in the text along with the articles referenced in this episode. There is a whole lot to explore when it comes to Self-Directed Learning, enough for an entire episode. But we are going to focus on this video which provides a basic explanation of the learning fundamentals behind self-directed learning. 

The first, which directly ties to the idea of individualized learning, is that education is the child’s responsibility. The second is that there must be unlimited opportunities for “play” which implies opportunities to explore as many things as possible in order to develop a passion. Learners also must be allowed to play with the tools of the culture, i.e. digital tools like computers, mobile phones, technology, etc, because they are becoming extensions of their bodies. These learners are to be surrounded by caring adults that are helpers, not judges. (Although this seems simple it is a big concept. As students explore what might be their passion if they are encouraged rather than judged they can pursue it to its full potential.

Another fundamental part is free age mixing so that children are learning from people younger and older than themselves. Just like you would at a job.  In many ways this is already happening at our community center and when we visit schools to tutor and help with learning modules. Lastly, Gray mentions that learners understand they are part of a stable, moral, and democratic community that is upheld by each of their personal and collective responsibility.

There are many more articles on the future of education and we encourage you to do some research on your own.  Nonetheless, the articles cited here reveal some commonalities that serve to inform the support we are providing to the communities we serve. 

Perhaps the most recurring idea is the concept of individualized learning and learning moving beyond the classroom. If the COVID-19 Pandemic showed us anything, in terms of access to education, is that we must be prepared for our classrooms to go virtual if need be. What is more, these are opportunities to extend learning beyond the classroom. Technology is now a permanent part of the education ecosystem.  The future is now.

Although we no longer operate a school, we believe the Community Center in Camitio, is already on its way to becoming a  Learning Hub where we deliver learning support based on first assessing learners’ needs and then providing them with individualized support. As we grow and learn together with the communities we serve, we aspire to offer more forms and opportunities for learning, cultivating civic engagement, and social innovation. Creating a safe space with people who are helpers, not judges, who guide learners as they explore their interests and take ownership of their learning. 

Teachers and their connection to students are irreplaceable, that is why we are committed to sharing resources with area educators and community leaders. 

The Community Center and community outreach visits to schools have been places for connectedness, collaboration, and co-creation. We hope to continue to be a space for individuals, small and large groups to collaborate. Face to face or virtually as we will continue to leverage technology in our efforts to support learners. 

2022 is an opportunity for learning communities to shift to a growth mindset, the belief that we can continue making efforts to develop and improve the ways we learn. To shift to a learner-first approach, where we can tailor learning to individual students’ needs. This is essential if we are to embrace the opportunity to build the future of learning together. 

As the stories of our 2021 graduates and school visits demonstrate, there is enormous potential in providing students with the resources, and support they need to be successful. 

This year we hope to further complement and reinforce what students are learning in school by giving them access to what they need as well as opportunities to explore new interests and new ways of learning.  Giving them ways to connect, collaborate and co-create. Helping foster students’ passion for learning beyond the classroom, empowered to use technology and other resources strategically to learn anywhere and at any time.

Forum Foundation is committed to working with community leaders, educators, parents, and students to better understand and address learning needs.  Share this podcast with your teacher, parents, friends, anyone who might be interested in learning more about the future of education and Forum Foundation’s support programs. 

Forum Foundation beneficiaries, we wish you all the best as you return to your classrooms. We hope that you continue to persevere, move forward, and inspire others with your positive example. Let’s build the future of learning together, every day!

Sources: 

World Economic Forum We Forum: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/01/future-of-education-4-scenarios/ 

What the Future of Education Looks Like from Here (HGSE)

Demographic and technology changes, firmer mandates for access and equity, and whole-child, human-centered commitments — amid growing global connections.

https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/20/12/what-future-education-looks-here

RMIT Article: The Future of Learning and Teaching Big Changes Ahead for Education

https://www.rmit.edu.au/study-with-us/education/discover-education/the-future-of-learning-and-teaching-big-changes-ahead-for-education

Peter Gray Self-Directed Learning  Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoE480mzrk0 

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