Lack of innovation is education’s biggest risk

The evolutionary steps needed in education are often hindered by political processes, a report found

A recent report by the global education marketing intelligence entity HolonIQ highlighted some interesting points about education. The reports provides a general outlook of the sector from a global perspective – what are the common challenges and what is the way forward. 503 global education professionals were interviewed from 50 different countries across the world.

The biggest global challenge in education, as highlighted by the report, is a political one. The report states that the evolution steps needed in education are most often than not inhibited by the political process.

While enterprise has a self-evolutionary mechanism within the market, at least in modern economies, in education you don’t find this because it’s a different ecosystem. Change has to come in different manners – sometimes it is bottom up and sometimes it is top down. The most natural, and probably enjoying the highest probability of success, is change that comes from the grassroots – the teachers and students in the classroom.

The second highest risk in education, which incidentally ranks as number one in Europe, is teacher shortages and skills gap. Europe is the only continent which ranks this as the number one issue in education, and understandably so. This is also valid for Malta, where young people who traditionally opt for a career in education now have a much wider array of choice and, needless to say, go for other subjects.

Many times I hear about teacher shortages because of this and that, however I am convinced that one of the main reasons for such shortages is the shift in opportunities, and the volume of those opportunities, to young people today. In the past, you had a handful of pathways where to go in terms of career.

Today, that has changed considerably and this new dynamic has naturally taken numbers away from educational jobs. To make matters even worse, over the years we have increased the demand for teaching jobs due to more student-oriented educational structures. In Malta, had we not done this we wouldn’t have teacher shortages in the two to three subjects where there are indeed shortages.

Another point raised by the report is a more economical one: the failure to adopt a sustainable model in education. Interestingly this is also present in Europe, where traditionally the concept of free education for all is widespread. I suspect this relates more to post-secondary and tertiary education, where today it might be available for all but it may not necessarily be accessible for all, for a wide variety of reasons.

The fourth highest risk in education in Europe is the failure of the educational system to evolve. This is something which links with the first point. Education systems have to understand the future needs of different sectors – from a personal human level, from an economical level and from a societal level. We have to work harder on this because most often than not education takes longer than other areas to understand the present realities, let alone prepare for future needs.

This is something where I think the Maltese educational system can be better. I am not necessarily talking about this from a technical and pedagogical (the method and practice of teaching) but also from what is being taught.

What can we take away, as a country, from this report? First of all I believe it is important not to over-inflate some of the challenges that we face, because they are present everywhere. At the same time, we have to be pro-active and be solutions-oriented. We also have to be realistic – and understanding – of the world around us, what is happening from an economical point of view and make sure our goals and targets are in line with all these realities.

We have much work to do but so do other countries, that have far larger challenges than us. At the end of the day I am very proud of the work that has been done in the local educational system, and I think that as a country we have made a lot of progress over the past twenty years. It is up to us to find the right solutions that fit our needs – they might be international and global problems, but it is also true that they require local solutions.

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