What is Education 3.0?

As the needs of society change, so too must the systems we use to educate our young people. Over the last 200 years, education has evolved from something accessible only to the more privileged classes to (in many countries) a mandatory stage of life for youth.

As the importance and reach of education has expanded, so has research into education practice and pedagogy. Education 3.0 is the next, crucial pedagogical step to properly preparing students for the world they’re inheriting.

Old-school education

Historically, assessing a student’s educational outcomes was done on the basis of domain-specific academic achievement. These include the classic ‘three Rs’ of education, reading, writing, and arithmetic.

These acted as the early goalposts for education for two main reasons. Firstly, they are easy to test. Students learn basic skills or rote learn facts, then repeat them in an examination. Secondly, for much of the twentieth century, they were more or less what was required to get a start in life, with more complex skills being picked up in the workforce.

With the onset of the fourth industrial revolution causing huge disruption to the labour market, straight academic achievement will not be enough. The key differentiator will be so-called 21st Century skills, the ability to deal with uncertainty, self-directed learning, creativity and innovation. Because these skills are hard to assess however, education systems remain focused on exams that measure academic achievement. The world has moved on, but the goalposts by which education measures itself have remained the same.

If we accept that the goal posts need to change, what might that change look like?

Paradigms of Education, 1.0 to 3.0

Education 1.0 is what most of us think of when we picture a classroom. Teachers lecture while students take notes. It’s not a particularly engaging method and it’s what the system has been trying to move away from for the past 30 years. However, if you walk into classrooms today it’s still the method most teachers use in Australian schools. As an approach to education it’s been sufficient for the old goal posts

Education 2.0 characterises the paradigm of education the system has been trying to move towards - student-centered and directed, rather than teacher-centered. Done well, it supports some development of 21st century skills, but in an abstract kind of way. The classroom still looks largely the same, the problems are still largely abstract and disconnected from the real world. Children have to imagine that what they are working on is like the real thing, except that the teacher has orchestrated the level of complexity and in most cases will have decided what it is that they work on.

While a step in the right direction, many of the other systems that drive the school system - the length of a lesson, timetables, the breaking down of knowledge into discrete unconnected topics, for example - have remained the same. Based on our observations of pedagogy in classrooms, between 8 and 12% of teachers teach in ways compatible with Education 2.0.

Education 3.0 sees students get out of the classroom to work with industry and communities on real life problems, developing both basic skills and 21st century skills in the process. It breaks down many of the system constraints that limit Education 2.0, by focusing on authenticity - the problems must be real, the outcomes should be real.

The below table outlines the key differences between Education 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0.


Why aren’t we teaching Education 3.0?

Many educators, whether in a classroom or an office, agree that teaching in the Education 1.0 paradigm is doing students a disservice in the context of the future they face. However, there are few systems as large as the education system. Everyone is a stakeholder. As a society we need to let go of Education 1.0 to make space for 3.0. The boundaries between schooling, community, and industry need to dissolve. Continuing the previously incremental attempts at educational reform will only lead to what we already have. We need to change paradigms, not just improve the out of date one.

Of course, that isn’t easy. A system as large as Australian education is a hard one to turn. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do everything in our power to try and move it to face the future.

Jonathan Englert