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Teacher’s role to change significantly in 21st century — Australian scientist

October 14, 2015, 11:46 UTC+3 SYDNEY
The primary challenges for the current Russian education system in the 21st century are approach to assessment in schools, and assessment systems, Patrick Griffin told TASS
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© TASS/Stanislav Krasilnikov

SYDNEY, October 13. /TASS/. The Open Innovations 2015 forum opening in Russia on October 28 will make a good opportunity to exchange experience with Russian researchers and take a closer look at the Russian education system, Patrick Griffin, Head of the Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ATC21S) Global Research Project at the University of Melbourne, said on Wednesday.

Patrick Griffin told TASS that the primary challenges for the current Russian education system in the 21st century are "approach to assessment in schools, and assessment systems."

"Russia hasn't been influenced to the same extent as the Western world in terms of objective testing, standardized testing," Griffin said. "In some ways because of this lack of emphasis on objective testing - which is a good thing, I think — it favorably reflects in the performance of Russia in the large-scale international studies such as PISA [Program for International Student Assessment] and so on, because these studies are very much dominated by multiple choice tests, which are not as prevalent in the Russian education system as in most other countries."

Commenting on the ATC21S elaboration, the scientist said that "the stimulus for the project came from three very large corporations, CISCO, INTEL and MICROSOFT, and these corporations felt that schools and universities were not producing graduates who were ready for a digitally dominated workplace, and they needed to shift the emphasis in the curriculum to start taking more seriously the needs of the workplace in the curriculum."

"The results of those studies won't be available until May 2016," he said. "Our whole approach to the importance of 21st century skills is important for a number of reasons: first of all, the workplace has changed, and in developed economies such as Russia, the United States and Western Europe, in terms of technology, unemployment and non-opportunities in the workplace is profound."

According to Griffin, currently we live in a digital society so "education has a very different role to play, really focusing more on vocational skills not of an industrial era, but on the vocational skills of an information era, the kinds of employment opportunities for which are emerging, disappearing, and in a state of flux."

"Educational systems around the world are grappling with the fact that we don't know what the jobs will be in 2035 and 2040, but we do know that the children who started school in 2015 will be close to graduating and exiting an education system by 2032-2034, and they are going to be entering a very different world, we don't know what skills they'll need, we can only project and hypothesize about that, but the situation will likely be very different from anything we can imagine."

"The best bet that people have are these 21st century skills — if we can teach these kinds of creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, problem solving, ethical behavior and curiosity - and we develop these in our schools and university, there is widespread belief that this will stand the students in good stead into the future. And if we continue to teach as we have been, it is likely that the students will emerge with a set of skills that are anachronistic and not particularly useful in a digital society," he said.

According to Griffin, today the role of teachers is significantly changing. "Information is now available almost readily through Google or other search engines. I understand, for example, that near 80% of litigation cases in the United States are conducted by self-representation, i.e. people don't employ a lawyer anymore because they can get the information they need from the internet."

"We know that in many instances people self-diagnose their ills and ailments using the internet, and then visit the doctor for confirmation, and perhaps a prescription," he said. "What's happening is that the professions are shifting away from being guardians of an expert body of knowledge to the role of almost coaching out of people who can use and act upon that information. Similar things are happening to teachers because of the explosion of information means that teachers cannot possibly keep up with the amount of information in their discipline, and they need to be able to show their students how to access and use this information."

"We can also look at the changes in the 21st century classroom because of the explosion of information, changing the role of the teacher and enabling students to progress further in their competence than many of their teachers can, and when that happens the same set of 21st century skills becomes important for the student to develop, grow and become an autonomous, self-regulated learner."

"We live in interesting times," Griffin concluded.

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