New approaches to learning like MOOCs, gamification and flipped learning have dominated discussion over the past year and are threatening to shake up education systems across the world. But is there really a revolution afoot? Or is all this technological hype just a flash in the pan? Ahead of his keynote speech at ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN’s opening plenary session, the ONLINE EDUCA News Service spoke to Sir Michael Barber about the coming revolution in higher education and the role of technology in teaching.
By Claire Adamson
Having joined Pearson in 2011, Barber is leading the company’s research into education policy and learning methods, as well as playing a particular role in Pearson’s strategy in developing countries and supporting innovation and development in new product areas. A world authority on education and educational reform, Barber was Chief Adviser on Delivery to the British Prime Minister and has had a hand in advising governments on education in every continent. He has co-authored several major education reports, and is the author of several leading books on education and government.
Barber’s research and thus focus at Pearson is primarily on the future of educational reform. By looking at the impact of Pearson’s products and services on learners around the world, he wants to adapt the company’s strategy to focus on likely developments in the education sphere – where the trends are leading and what could happen in the immediate future. Barber believes that “an education revolution is coming and it will require public and private organisations to work together to seize the opportunities to transform outcomes for learners everywhere.”
While acknowledging that technology has a part to play in this future, Barber still sees humans as the most important driver of change in education. He argues that schools and institutions need to adapt not only technologically, but also on a more fundamental level – by reforming development and systems in place to embrace technology. In order to cope with the structural and ideological changes that come with technological advancement, Barber suggests that schools need to “invest continuously in (teachers’) skills and empower rapidly the younger teachers who are already digital natives.”
Indeed, Barber’s key components of top performing institutions are largely based on the people who run them and the systems that are in place: “High standards, good teachers, good principals and consistent strategy and implementation.”
A large part of Barber’s work is also looking at low-cost solutions and possibilities for education in developing countries, particularly in Pakistan. Barber contributes around 30 days a year to the UK Government’s Pakistan Education Taskforce which has in the past year or so helped over a million extra students into school, reduced drop-out rates and improved teaching skills and school quality. While he applauds the progress being made in Pakistan, he highlights the urgent need for fast-growing, developing economies to ensure that “every child gets an education that prepares them for life and work. We can’t afford to delay.”
Pearson also focuses on providing effective learning methods and solutions in a globalised economy and is taking steps to bridge the gap between educational institutions and the labour market. Barber is committed to making sure that Pearson can offer workers the skills and knowledge they need to succeed throughout their lifetimes. To achieve this, Barber lists what he sees as the core skills for learners worldwide: “Knowledge plus thinking plus leadership, underpinned by an ethical perspective. Everything Pearson does should contribute to these outcomes.”
Sir Michael Barber will deliver his keynote speech An Avalanche is Coming: The Revolution in Higher Education in the opening plenary session of ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN at 9.15am on Thursday 29th November.
To learn more about Person’s range of learning solutions, from content, technology and services; please visit their stand which will be located in the Foyer Potsdam. Or visit www.pearsoned.com.