Decision makers face two types of challenges that have significant implications for education development.
2.1 National Challenges
- Countries are experiencing significant shifts in the global economic environment characterized by changing patterns of trade and competition, technological innovation, and globalization of information. Together, these developments are producing a new worldwide economy that is global, high speed, knowledge driven, and competitive.
- At the national level, all facets of modern society are becoming knowledge dependent, and without the essential knowledge and skills for modern living, people will remain on the margins of society, and society itself will lose their vast potential contributions.
- There is a digital divide between and within countries. The challenge is to bridge this divide and extend access information and technological skills.
2.2 Educational Challenges
Despite the dramatic progress in education achieved so far at the national and school levels, much remains to be done:
- Each country, to varying degrees, continues to struggle with issues of children out of school and illiterate youths and adults.
- Inequities in educational opportunities, quality of educational services and level of learning achievement persist by gender, rural/urban locality, ethnic background, and socioeconomic status.
- The quality of learning and the capacity to define and monitor this quality is lacking in most developing countries.
- The means and scope of education continue to be narrow and confined to historical models of delivery, and the use of other channels continues to be ad hoc and marginal.
The increase in quantitative and qualitative demand for education is not matched by an increase in resources.
2.3 Implications for Education
These challenges pose serious questions for planning education and training systems and force rethinking in the way education is perceived, delivered, and managed. Where does this leave education development? With six far-reaching implications:
- Holistic Education Structure. Each country needs a whole spectrum of knowledge and skills to deal with technology and the globalization of knowledge and to adjust to continuous economic and social changes.
- Focus on Learning. The ancient objective of education, to teach how to learn, problem solve, and synthesize the old with the new, is now transformed from desirable to indispensable.
- Education for Everyone. Modern economic, social, political, and technological requirements demand that all members of society have a minimum level of basic education.
- Education Anytime. The need for continuous access to information and knowledge makes education lifelong to help individuals, families, workplaces, and communities to adapt to economic and societal changes, and to keep the door open to those who have dropped out along the way.
- Education Anywhere. To cope with the diversity and complexity of and the changing demands for education services, learning cannot be confined to the traditional classroom. It is unrealistic and unaffordable to continue to ask learners to come to a designated place every time they have to engage in learning.
- Preparation for the Future. The future is changing so dramatically and quickly that it poses a nightmare for educational decision makers, strategists, and planners. We are educating students for the unknown, so the best we can do is to equip them with the necessary conceptual, cognitive, attitudinal, and social tools to continue learning anytime, anywhere, on demand.