The 2018 edition of the Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) report, brings a special focus on the importance of diversity. They highlighted how collaboration between social partners in society is vital to confront the immense challenges that we face in a world that is increasingly dependent on talent. So, the ability of a country to attract talent will ultimately pave the way for a more innovative society capable of solving its problems. The study is rich in insights and in-depth analysis. I would like to highlight just a few that supports two vital points for both the future of work and education and to make our societies more sustainable - Education and Social Equity. Timely discussion, as teachers strike across the US for better working conditions and fair compensation, and that barely scratches the surface of our education widening deficit. We can learn from the GTCI report, from which I am drawing directly few excerpts, what we need to do regarding creating social policies to prepare our students to compete globally and enable our families to support them.
GLOBAL TALENT COMPETITIVENESS INDEX 2018 AND SOCIAL EQUITY
The top GTCI scores continue to be dominated by developed, high-income countries and there is a high correlation between GDP per capita and GTCI scores. Those are precisely the countries with the resources and will to create more social equity. In those countries, we can see a virtuous cycle, where public policies to build more social capital creates better living conditions, which attracts and retain more local and global talent to prosper. That is what the graphic below indicates. It makes clear that reducing social inequality is vital for global competitiveness in the long run and social stability. When teachers must go on strike to fight for minimum conditions, that is a clear indication we are not doing enough to create social equity with a quality education.
Education and Diversity: Challenges and Opportunities
Education is the focus of today's social equity agenda of societies aiming to be competitive in the 21st century. And it could not be different. Educate diverse students in the current globalized and unequal world is not a simple task. We need to create the right conditions for every student to thrive in the information economy of the future, and not only a few.
From an educational perspective, increasing diversity raises the question: what is the best way to ensure that all students can succeed in school and beyond? Traditional educational systems have focused on uniformity and standardization: uniform aims, identical content, standardized learning progression, undifferentiated amount of time assigned for learning, and common criteria for success—regardless of the diversity of talents in the student population. The emphasis has been on the homogeneity of learners (and outcomes). This paradigm of homogeneity required that learners were seen as similar in many ways and that differences were deliberately not acknowledged. This approach might have been appropriate in a time of massification and expansion of education, but it is simply not tenable in a modern world. It is no longer uncommon for teachers to have a class with a diverse range of backgrounds, cultures, learning preferences, and abilities. There is ample evidence from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test that diversity matters, but perhaps not always in the way we would hope it would: students with immigrant backgrounds perform less well on average on the PISA assessment than their native peers; those from wealthier families outperform the less wealthy; and there are long-standing gender differences in performance that, on average, favor boys (in mathematics) and girls (in reading). And while these performance gaps are critical, the significant variation in their magnitude across countries indicates that these differences can be largely mitigated, if not overcome. Providing all students with the skills and competencies required to thrive in school and beyond means being able to meet their diverse sets of needs.
WHAT STUDENTS LEARN: FROM CURRICULUM TO COMPETENCY
Uniformity and standardization have shaped not only the how of teaching and learning environments in schools but also what students are supposed to learn and teachers to teach. Many educational systems struggle to move away from a curriculum framework where uniform learning objectives and content are prescribed in a centralized way to be taught in all schools of the nation.
CALL FOR INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION
Teachers need to be able to adapt learning activities to the different abilities, competencies, and motivations of their students as well as to their linguistic, cultural, and social backgrounds. That must be complemented with a sensitive assessment that allows learner strengths and weaknesses to be identified. Technology plays a crucial role in permitting the individualization of information, communication, and materials. Investments must be made to equip and train the education ecosystem.
Homogeneous learning environments—which tune the pedagogical encounter to the ‘average’ learner—risk providing an overload of learning challenges to some students while not offering enough stimulation to others. In both cases, the learning outcomes will be suboptimal. Managing cognitive load and learning challenges in such a way that all learners can take equal benefit requires well-designed pedagogies and appropriate assessment systems.
HOW TO SUPPORT TEACHERS: COMPETENCES FOR DIVERSITY
Diverse classrooms, new pedagogies, and curriculum frameworks focusing on new competencies will require different skills sets and behaviors from teachers. The question thus becomes: are teachers ready for this? Or are teachers themselves educated for professional roles that put uniformity and conformity first?
WHERE DECISIONS ARE TAKEN: THE POLICY CHALLENGES
Educational systems that take diversity seriously can no longer rely on governance models of command and control. The policy equivalent of uniformization and standardization is a heavily centralized governance system in which all schools are treated in the same way through central steering and accountability arrangements that force schools into compliance with decisions taken in the center. In increasingly diverse societies, local conditions tend to vary enormously, and schools cannot realize their social mission without adjusting themselves to those conditions. Diversity thus induces flexibility and deregulation, with schools assuming ownership of pedagogy and curricula. Based on PISA 2015 data, shows that students’ learning outcomes are positively influenced when responsibilities over curriculum or assessment are located at the level of the school management and teachers and removed from that of national education authorities such as ministries.
Past performance is no guarantee of future success. With so much to do, it is vital for all of us to understand the current scenarios, the future of work and education and foster necessary changes by casting our votes responsibly to enable modern and effective social policies. We cannot wait for any longer to revitalize our public education system and create more social equity, so every family can support their kids to be winners in the very competitive global job market.