Education in the 21st century part 2

The 20th century is about industrialization and a key factor in establishing an “industrial society” is the changing of the education system, from traditional agriculture to focus on science with subjects such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology etc. It is important for people in an industrial society to understand some basic knowledge of sciences, certain laws, and rules of economic, engineering, and medicine, etc. Most of the progress and innovations of the 20th century are the results of this change in education.

The 21st century is about the advancement of technology and a key factor in establishing a “knowledge society” is the changing of the education system from the fundamental science to the applications of technology to daily lives that includes new subjects such as computer science, informatics, artificial intelligence, etc. In today’s world, all societies are moving forward to take advantage of this new technology applications. It is important for people in this knowledge society to understand basic knowledge of technologies such as the use of a computer, mobile technologies, and the Internet, etc. To be prepared for the jobs of the 21st century, all students must be trained in computer skills, as well as having certain knowledge of technology applications.

In the past, college graduates often work in the same job for a long time, sometimes for their entire lives. Today, technology changes fast, and skills change as demand changes, and every student must develop a lifelong learning skill to keep current with technology trend. Today the world is connected and more open, besides subjects such as science, technology, math, etc. All students must learn at least one foreign language and develop a basic knowledge of globalization, finance, economics, and the environment. They must learn to think deeply, not just memorize facts so they can apply their knowledge to solve problems and develop critical thinking skills. These new proficiencies cannot be learned quickly through memorization but it must be built gradually through years of education learning. The question remains is how do teachers cope with these changes? How could they teach these new skills to students? What is the role of the teacher in this 21st century?

It is obvious that the teacher’s role must be redefined to meet the needs and demands of this technology-driven world. When the whole world is evolving quickly to this change, many education systems remain unchanged for hundred years. The fact is most education systems mainly involve teachers to transfer their knowledge to students based on a defined curriculum in preparation for students to pass a numbers of standardized test. But if it has not kept up with the changing times, then we need to question its value in preparing students for the job of the future. Today with the proliferation of the Internet and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), any student who has access to the Internet can learn a variety of topics that may not be taught at their school system. The questions remain to be answered: Should parents and students adopt MOOCs to replace the current school system? Is it possible for students to learn everything online without going to school?


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University
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