We are in the Transformation Decade

Last week I was in a meeting with a local language school that prepares students from all around the world to enter tertiary education or the work force. Their role is to train students to write and speak English well. We were discussing the next phase of research into how students can use the Style Guide™. The aim is to supplement one-on-one tutoring and set students up to continue practising the fundamentals for writing English when the tutor is not available.

The two women, Maureen Clark and Shirley Wood, HOD of English at New Zealand Institute of Education (NZIE), share three qualities that I greatly admire. They are dedicated to enabling their students to learn, will put in all the hours required to achieve this goal and they are innovative. It is really exciting to be part of that.

That combination is the way of the future for education. In an article in The Future of Education Technology, futurist David Houle argues that we “have entered a new millennium…” where the environment for learning is undergoing massive change. The Industrial Age prepared students for participating in factories. They sat at desks in rows regulated by the school bell. Most of the baby boomers recall this environment. Some thrived but many (too many) crashed and burned, unable to adjust to rote learning and wanting more control over what they study. Their answer is in today’s environment. These days’ students face much more fluid situations where they are in charge of finding answers to complex questions. The key to their success is to know what questions to ask and where to go for answers. Future educators will be facilitators of that knowledge rather than arbiters/imparters of what students learn. The reason for this is that information is much more accessible now, thanks to the Internet and the Cloud.

Once, textbooks had a currency of three years, now it is one year. Digital versions make delivery of up-to-date information immediate and students can access it whenever they need it. The key to being a successful student in today’s world is to be self-motivated and curious. Educators have a vital role to play in stimulating those qualities.

I once thought a laptop was a miracle of mobility, but I no longer do. The Cloud now allows me to access information wherever I am through any number of devices. Therefore, the device is no longer important, access to the Cloud is critical.

According to Matt Brikland, writing in The Guardian, “schools will need a fast robust internet connection. Infrastructure is paramount to the future of technology in education.”

They also need to prepare for different language needs as the world’s population becomes more mobile and globalised.

For example, there are more second language speakers of English than there are native. This will grow as the trend continues which regards English as the language of business and the one language that can cross cultural borders. While the USA has the largest English speaking population with 250 million, India is next with 124 million. However, many estimate that English as second language speakers outnumber native speakers. Demand for tutors to teach English is growing at a phenomenal rate.

So this brings me back to students at the Language School where I’m trialling the Style Guide™. Our goal is to develop it so that English as Second Language users can work on understanding English language basics, such as structure. This is not to prepare them for exams such as IELTS, but rather to give them a tool to practice writing without needing to refer to already stretched tutors. As the world becomes smaller, English is increasingly seen as the universal language of business, education and government.

I applaud the courage of educationalists who embrace change because it is a step of faith. However, the change is inevitable and those who willingly embrace it are much better equipped to take advantage of the benefits this is bringing to future generations.

 I look forward to that very exciting future.










Second language speakers