Reimagining education for today’s complex and fast-changing world

Reimagining education for today's complex and fast-changing world
Joseph Haldane (center), chairman and CEO of IAFOR (the International Academic Forum), in October 2019. Credit: Virginia Tech

Many educators and employers agree there’s a disconnect between the skills today’s workers need on the job and what students are taught in school.


It’s a complex problem that touches on K-12, higher education, and industry. While finding solutions won’t be easy, a group of more than 60 leaders from education and workforce development are looking to make headway.

In an unusually broad and comprehensive effort led by the Virginia Tech Calhoun Center for Higher Education Innovation, IAFOR (the International Academic Forum), and the Future Talent Council, extensive research was conducted into innovative programs that are making an impact, leaders from those programs were engaged, and recommendations on new ways to improve educational practices worldwide have been compiled.

The resulting report, “Adaptive Lifelong Learning for an Inclusive Knowledge Economy,” published by Virginia Tech Publishing, is just one step in the process of looking to help shift traditional educational practice in new, more innovative and effective directions, those involved say. The group is already engaged in a next step for the project: recruiting teams to put the report’s recommendations into practice on as wide a scale as possible.

“As a society, we’ve created a global knowledge economy, but only a small percent of the population is fully participating,” said Thanassis Rikakis, executive director of the Calhoun Center. “There is a significant amount of people with rich and unique human skills who are not or cannot participate. What brought us all together for this project was the issue of increasing participation.”

Rikakis first brought those involved together for an October workshop in the greater Washington, D.C., metro area before the group collaborated in greater detail on the report.

“It’s designed to be an open-source project, so to speak,” said Joseph Haldane, chairman and CEO of IAFOR, an organization that promotes international exchange, intercultural awareness, interdisciplinary discussion, and the creation and sharing of new knowledge. “That excites me and fits very well in the mission of what we do.”

The teams that will take the project to its next stage are being set up in nine thematic areas. The areas touch on a wide range of educational and workforce development issues for people of all ages, ranging from K-12 to older adults already in the workforce. Areas also focus on technology’s impact on learning and on such issues as how to best equip tomorrow’s employees for the rapid pace of change they will have to contend with throughout their careers.

“We’re all trying to predict a future job market that is increasingly unpredictable,” said Daniel Kjellsson, managing director of the Future Talent Council, a global membership organization of talent leaders from the educational, corporate, and governmental sectors. “What we do understand, however, is that talent development will most likely happen throughout one’s professional lifeā€”and looking at that timeline right now we see gaps. We support more active and organic collaboration between educators and employers; a

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