Reform curriculum and teaching, urges expert
Dubai, March 12, 2009
It is an imminent need to reform curriculum and use technology to better teaching methods to get the best return on investment, an education specialist said at the Gulf Education Forum (GEF) 2009.
Organised by Fairs & Exhibitions, the three-day GEF 2009, is running in parallel with Gulf Educational Supplies and Solutions exhibition at Dubai's Airport Expo Centre and will end today (March 12).
Mark East, director of Microsoft’s education solutions groups emphasised the point that the parameters surrounding education were changing rapidly across a new world order, and that these would affect everyone.
East said that not much had basically changed in education since the 1880’s.
“The way we use the technology of today is very much the same as what we did over 100 years ago,” he said. “But if we don’t reform the curriculum and how we use technology to better our teaching methods, we effectively reduce our return on investment.
“The world is becoming a much smaller place as technological innovations progress, increasing our capabilities, and reducing our costs as we embrace a digital lifestyle.”
“The fact is that teachers are unlikely ever to be as technically literate as the kids they teach; but they don’t need to be. Their role is changing to more of a facilitation model. The kids can work out the technology for themselves,” he added.
“China and India both have more gifted students than all the students put together in the UK,” he said. “The likelihood is that today’s learners will on average have between 10 and 14 different jobs before they reach the age of 38.
“It’s salutary to reflect that nowadays, fully a half of what technical students learn in their first year at university will already be out of date by the time they complete their third year. We are already living in the past!”
Doug Brown, an expert consultant for Becta who used to work for the UK’s Ministry of Education, took up the theme, saying that more change would occur in the first 20 years of this century than had happened in the whole of the last 100 years.
“In the next century we can expect the equivalent of another 20,000 years of progress at past rates,” Brown said.
“Already in one generation of school leavers we have seen huge changes in technology. From the advent of Windows 95 to the present collaborative and interactive technologies; from the use of video cassettes to DVDs, iPods and MP3 players; through the widespread use of search engines and social networking sites; the world of today’s children is almost unrecognisable from that of the previous generation. And the challenge is to make it effective.”
Brown continued that spending on information and communication technologies in schools had increased to the point whereby ten years ago they were looking forward to the prospect of low bandwidth broadband to replace their 56k modems whilst nowadays a minimum 2MB broadband was becoming universal.
“But what studies show is that it’s not the use of technology in its own right that improves the learning environment but the quality of teaching that has to go hand in hand with the technology available,” he explained.
“The challenge is in making it effective. There is a strategic shift to demand side learning; but simply having more computers in the classroom does not make for better results.”
Brown also pointed out that world population demographics were changing with more people living longer, and this was leading to higher demands for through-life training. At the same time, the world order of base level qualifications was changing dramatically.
In the 1990s, the US led the world, whilst now it had slipped to 13th position. Over the same period, Korea – a heavily ‘wired’ society – had risen from 27th to pole position.
“China is now becoming the number one English speaking nation in the world,” he continued.