PwC has described education as the ‘engine room of Australia’s future prosperity’, and it’s essential that the Australian education system adapts and evolves in line with digitalisation to prepare the workforce of the future. There is an ever growing need to increase skills in the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) sectors and its predicted that if just one per cent of our workforce shifted into STEM roles, Australia’s GDP could increase by a staggering $57.4 billion. But is the education system adapting to this change and are the efforts substantial? 

STEM for the future

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) was created to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world and currently has 34-member states. Their 2017 Economic Survey of Australia concluded that Australia was performing below the global average for STEM education, as the number of graduates in the science and engineering fields was below average compared to the number of job openings in the respective fields.

Improving STEM education has been noted as a national priority and one that is directly linked to Australia’s productivity and economic wellbeing. With over 75% of the fastest growing occupations requiring STEM skills and all occupations requiring IT skills, the future of the Australian workforce depends on a workforce equipped with these four skills.  

The digitisation of the classroom

‘Traditional’ teaching and education is evolving at a rapid pace, and digital disruption has led to the technological advancement of classrooms across the world. Teachers can now communicate with pupils and parents, mark papers, offer feedback and create lesson plans through specialised apps, which can offer analytical insights into student’s progress using big data and algorithms. Digitisation isn’t just about virtual classrooms or using the latest technology for the sake of it – it should be focused on improving and streamlining learning outcomes and increasing productivity.

Platforms such as the Khan Academy are leading the way in Australia, and their mission is to ‘provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. They have partnered with world-leading organisations such as NASA and the Museum of Modern Art to offer students and teachers efficient digital solutions that will ultimately improve learning outcomes. Also, heavily focused on STEM education, the Khan Academy has assisted millions of students globally, and there is no doubt that the future of education in Australia is headed the same way.

Lifelong Learning

Traditional education systems have primarily focused on macro credentialing from the examinations students sit in high school through to studying a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree at university. It’s becoming apparent that the future of education is heading towards a micro credentialing system that is focused on upskilling in several different areas. Tom Mackay, a board member of the Foundation for Young Australians, stated that the coming generations of adults won’t be earning a living but ‘learning a living’.

According to labour experts Adzuna, one-third of jobs in Australia could be automated by 2030. The rise of automation, especially for rule-based or manual labour jobs means that people will need to broaden their skill-sets or face losing out to automation. Work experience is undoubtedly invaluable for career progression, but often those who take a ‘lifelong learning’ approach are particularly successful in their field. 

There are numerous benefits to be gained from continuous learning including economic, intellectual, cognitive and social, with studies showing up to 87% of respondents experienced positive changes in learning motivation, social interaction and general well-being/life satisfaction. ‘Education leads to innovation, increases productivity and has a direct impact on an individual’s health, wellbeing and social mobility’.  Online learning can offer numerous benefits to those trying to juggle professional and family life, allowing flexibility to complete a master’s degree in their own time at their own pace. The ability to talk to your peers in real-time through an online learning network, track your own progress and grow professional networks can greatly enhance career and learning outcomes.

A Master of Education at Southern Cross University Online is designed to suit busy professional and family lifestyles and offers two specialisations; Education Wellbeing and Education Leadership. Promoting lifelong learning for both students and teachers, this master’s degree prepares education professionals for a fulfilling career in education.