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Educating students for the future, not the past

Released at: 07:28, 20/01/2018

Educating students for the future, not the past

Photo: Ngoc Lan

OECD expert looks at Vietnam's education sector in address to Vietnam Sustainability Forum 2018.

by Ngoc Lan

The remarkable progress Vietnam has made over the last decade in raising access to education and improving quality suggests that the country is ready to take the next step towards building a 21st century education system that ensures the next generation is learning for their future, not the past.

Mr. Andreas Schleicher, Director of the Directorate for Education and Skills at the OCED, told the Vietnam Sustainability Forum 2018 that Vietnamese students are quite good at acquiring knowledge but are weak in extrapolating from what they know and applying knowledge creatively in novel situations.

Changes are needed in the instructional environment, where students have more control and ownership over the time, place, path, and pace of learning.

He also identified previous weaknesses of Vietnamese students. The challenge is that developing quality requires a very different approach to learning and teaching and a different caliber of teacher.

The past can be isolated, with schools designed to keep students inside and the rest of the world out, with a lack engagement with families and a reluctance to partner with other schools.

The future needs to be integrated, he went on, with an emphasis on the integration of subjects and the integration of students. It also needs to be connected so that learning is closely related to real-world contexts and contemporary issues, and rich resources in the community must be made available.   

Instruction in the past was subject-based, while instruction in the future needs to be more project-based, building experiences that help Vietnamese students think across the boundaries of subject-matter disciplines.

The past was hierarchical but the future is collaborative, recognizing both teachers and students as resources and co-creators.

In the past, he noted, different students were taught in similar ways. School systems now need to embrace diversity, adopting differentiated approaches to learning.

The goals of the past were standardization and compliance, with students following the same standard curriculum and being assessed at the same time. The future is about building instruction from student passions and capacities, helping them personalize their learning and assessment in ways that foster engagement and talent. Students need to be encouraged to be ingenious.

Schools were technological islands in the past, Mr. Schleicher believes, with technology often limited to supporting existing practices and students outpacing schools in their adoption and consumption of technology. Now schools need to use the potential of technologies to liberate learning from past conventions and connect learners in new and powerful ways, with sources of knowledge, with innovative applications, and with one another.

The policy focus was previously only on the provision of education but now needs to be on outcomes, shifting from looking upwards in the bureaucracy towards looking outwards to the next teacher, the next school, and the next education system.

Administration previously emphasized school management, he explained, but now the focus needs to be on instructional leadership, with leaders supporting, evaluating, and developing teacher quality and the design of innovative learning environment.

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