AI, technology and digitalisation lead the way in personalised learning

Artificial Intelligence, Education Sector

An inaugural report into global attitudes towards education and technology reveals the extent to which learners want to drive what, how and when they learn – both at school and in the workplace. Dorothy Lepkowska, UCL EDUCATE’s Communications Lead, unpicks the main findings.

A major international report on the future of education shows artificial intelligence, technology and digitalisation are leading the way in personalised learning, and skilling the workforce of the future.

The Pearson Global Learner Survey is the first time that such a large study has been undertaken of learners’ views, attitudes towards and expectations of education systems and lifelong learning.

The survey, completed by more than 11,000 people aged 16-70 years from 19 countries, was conducted on behalf of Pearson, by The Harris Poll.

Globally, most respondents believed that digital and virtual learning would become increasingly normal in the next decade, with technology enhancing the learning experience and increasing accessibility, due largely to the extensive use of devices in their everyday lives.

The report found that workers everywhere wanted to brush up on skills that machines and Artificial Intelligence (AI) could not yet compete with, such critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity. However, educational institutions weren’t yet meeting this need.

Fewer respondents from the UK than elsewhere felt they needed to upskill in their job because of the influx of technology – 28% – compared with 41% in other parts of Europe, 44% in India and 47% in China. Two-thirds of UK people also believed they needed to develop soft skills such as critical thinking and creativity, alongside STEM skills, compared with 87% in Hispano-America and 95% in China.

AI was seen as a way of making learning engaging and more fun. However, UK respondents were not as convinced of its benefits as their contemporaries in other parts of the world. Seven out of 10 Britons believed that AI could make a positive impact on education, compared with 78% in India, 83% in Hispano-America and 90% in China.

Two-thirds of UK respondents – 67% – believed AI algorithms could provide highly personalised learning, compared with 79% in Brazil and 90% in China.

However, Britons were among the least likely to fear that AI would displace teachers – 63% – compared with 76% in South Africa, 75% in Hispano-America and 73% in India and Australia.

John Fallon, Pearson’s CEO, said: “The learners in our survey embrace technology and online learning. They also want more vocational education, soft skills training and bite-size learning across the course of their lifetime.

“Virtual learning for children, online degrees and micro and stackable credentials for adults and on-demand learning for everyone can help meet the needs of today’s sophisticated learner. Governments, educational institutions, employers and social and tech disruptors are uniquely positioned to apply their vast and unique expertise to help drive this change.

“The smartest of these innovators already know what the learners in our survey do: that generations of career paths are increasingly outdated.”

Other key findings include:

  • Coding is now the second most important “language” after English, and ahead of Chinese and Spanish.
  • Learners believe soft skills will give them the advantage over automation. While STEM learning remains important, skills such as creativity, originality and problem-solving give them an advantage over machines, but learners say they need help mastering them.
  • More than half of UK respondents – 51% – said their university degree did not prepare them for the workplace or their chosen career. They were also less convinced than people in Asia that going to a vocational college would result in a good job – 66% compared with 71%.
  • Globally, 70% of people agreed that the notion of a job-for-life was old-fashioned, while 84% believed their career path would be different from that of their parents.
  • Workers in China, India, Brazil and Hispano-America are more likely to retrain or upskill for their jobs than those in the US and in the UK.

Professor Rose Luckin, Director of UCL EDUCATE and Professor of Learner Centred Design at the UCL Knowledge Lab, said: “This is an extremely timely report, giving us an overview for the first time of global attitudes and opinions about education systems and notably in the context of technological advances.

“We should, perhaps, expect some of the disparities between countries and continents, as these will be influenced by the rate of innovation, availability and the extent to which educators are engaging with technology.

“However, these findings provide valuable information to us and the companies we work with on the UCL EDUCATE programme and show that perhaps we still have some work to do in educating learners of all ages about the many opportunities and benefits technology offers.”

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