According to Yong Zhao one of the biggest flaws of PISA is that it “directs the world’s attention to the past instead of pointing to the future.” Yet education systems and policy makers rely on international assessments such as PISA to gauge student performance in maths, science and reading.
In World Class Learners, Zhao admits that based on data comparisons, countries performing extremely well on international tests such as China and Taiwan tend to score lower in perceived entrepreneurial capabilities. The good news is that Australia scores relatively high when it comes to entrepreneurship.
Harvard Business Review had an interesting article last week on the fastest moving digital economies. The authors developed an index to gauge how countries compare in terms of their readiness for the digital economy. Looking at performance over five years (2008-2013), they assigned 50 countries into four trajectories: Stand Out, Stall Out, Break Out and Watch Out.
Australia currently sits in the ‘Stall Out’ quadrant – having achieved a high level of evolution but losing momentum and at risk of falling behind. Singapore, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Estonia, the US and New Zealand are among the countries in the Stand Out quadrant. These are countries who continue to invest in world-class digital infrastructure, encourage entrepreneurship and have governments which support and encourage growth of the digital ecosystem.
The authors’ advice for countries like ours is to invest in innovation, look globally for new markets and find ways of attracting ‘talented young immigrants’ to revive innovation quickly.
If as Zhao says schools must transform into global enterprises capable of educating globally competent entrepreneurs, then we need new measures that look forward – beyond traditional boundaries.
I wonder whether we need to be looking at schooling in the same way countries assess readiness for the digital economy? Do we need a Digital Education Index based on key drivers? For example, when schools deliver a curriculum (especially electives) are they aligning them with “Stand-Out” or the delivery of traditional subjects aligned with “Stall Out”?
Digital is no longer about hardware or software. It isn’t about the number of computers or iPads in classrooms. When we talk about digital education it encompasses the mindsets, policies, users, trends and infrastructure that support this dynamic and ever-evolving ecosystem. An ecosystem that our learners are a part of and will inevitably shape based on their needs and ever-changing expectations.
The authors of the HBR article predict that the “next billion consumers to come online will be making their digital decisions on a mobile device – very different from the practices of the first billion.”
How will schooling be different from last year or even last week so we don’t end up in “Stall Out”?