World Economic Forum Report: New Vision for Education, the case of the missing learner.

On 25th September the What the Research Says event at the London Knowledge Lab discussed the World Economic Forum report – New Vision for Education: unlocking the potential of technology.  The presentations from the event can be found on the Resources page of this blog.

imgresThe report stimulated a lively discussion and the meeting benefitted greatly from the presence on-line of Elizabeth Kaufman and Jessica Boccardo from Boston Consulting group who had co-authored on the report. Those present came from a wide range of backgrounds, both within and outwith academia, including commercial developers, think tanks, publishers and educators. All believe in the importance of evidence-based models of innovation and development.


The emphasis upon 21st Century skills was seen as positive and timely. However, there was much discussion about the nature of foundational skills and in particular, whether these are the same now as they were a decade ago, for example is the numeracy now the same numeracy as it was in the millennium? In fact should we be asking: are there new kinds of knowledge that need to be added to the agenda? Foundational literacies, competencies and character qualities are not necessarily mutually exclusive and should not be addressed in isolation. Not all skills are measurable, for example, creativity. In addition, measurement alone is insufficient, what is required is the creation of circumstances in which skills are developed and supported. The group also wondered why the European Commission lifelong learning indicators were not referenced.

Developing comparable indicators to measure progress globally is a huge challenge given the diversity of contexts, likewise, consensus on definitions and globally uniform standards. Context needs to be attributed beyond the country level only – there can be variations at regional, district, school and teacher levels.

child Head.Children Learn to think

child Head.Children Learn to think

There was much agreement that technology can support the development of 21st Century skills and that the potential extended beyond the examples within the report. For example,

  • Adaptive technologies for learning powered by Artificial Intelligence can support foundational skills, but they can also support curiosity, structure personalised feedback, support self-regulation, metacognition and communication;
  • Open data can be used to model good practices and can support skills development specifically: critical skills, analytic skills, research skills, teamwork skills & citizenship skills;
  • There are tensions with the adoption of games that need to be addressed for progress to be made. The reasons for this include: Educational game designers ignoring the importance of the social interactions around games and the fact that games do not fit easily within educational structures.
  • Big data and learning analytics are important technologies missing from the report.



The closed loop model is appealingly straightforward. However the discussion identified concerns with this approach that included: A lack of openness for teachers and learners to engage with the process at every stage, for example to negotiate and con-construct learning objectives. Instruction is only one form of educational approach and that severely limits the application of the closed loop model. Despite an emphasis upon context within the report, there appears to be no accounting for learner context in the closed loop model. A spiral model has been tried and tested and shown to be effective, might that be more appropriate?

The report’s reference to ‘Abundant high-quality content’ was challenged and the group noted that in the Bridge example, teachers had spent considerable time developing lesson content.

The groups experience questioned how many teachers actually use online CPD?

There was much agreement that more evidence is required and that there is a wealth of evidence available within academic institutions. Could this be capitalised upon?

There was also much agreement that a multi-stakeholder approach is essential and suggest the addition of researchers and learners.