How to improve education in the 21st century

In 2040, children who are now at school will join an employment market that will be quite different from the one that we know today due, amongst other reasons, to the development of artificial intelligence and new technologies.

For this reason, education is vital to ensure that students are ready to join the working world. But are current educational systems prepared for this challenge?

For two years, the World Economic Forum has studied how to build more innovative educational systems. This has led to nine principles being adopted that educational leaders can use to encourage positive change, regardless of the fact that each country has its own educational system:

Provide a compelling vision of the future: Leaders must be able to offer an alternative vision of the future and stimulate demand for a better educational system.

Set ambitious goals to force innovation: Define goals that force the system to innovate in order to advance. Ambitious goals must be sufficiently flexible to create room for further innovation.

Create choice and competition: Both factors can put pressure on schools to offer alternatives to those that exist at present. Choice may exist at different levels: students and parents can choose schools or educators can have more options about where they work.

Pick many winners: Giving support to multiple ideas or approaches at the same time encourages everyone to continue improving and competing, whether new technological tools or new school models are being tested. Those systems that reward a single winner discourage the desire to continue improving and learning.

Benchmark and track progress: Education systems need data on school performance so that they can continue to make progress. Data can also be used by leaders to identify problems.

Evaluate and share the success of new innovations: innovators need freedom to experiment and to know how innovations actually work.

Combine greater accountability and autonomy: Innovative people need to have freedom to experiment while still being responsible for their results. Allowing schools to be autonomous can help reduce barriers to innovation and allow school leaders to explore new approaches.

Invest in and empower agents of change: System leaders need to provide leadership development, coaching and mentoring, together with other support systems that allow innovators to be successful.

Reward successes (and productive failures): Public recognition encourages innovators to take risks, even when these do not work. It also helps to highlight work that others may imitate.