Ways to Shape the Future of Education

There is no single formula for improving education globally, but there are a number of areas we are watching, reading about, and working on to drive improvement in the education sector. We believe education innovators and leaders can make a difference in these areas in the decades to come.

Enhance Flexibility by Unbundling Credentials

Higher education today is mostly focused on two- and four-year degree programs in which students pay a bundled fee to receive a set of services that may or may not relate to their developmental needs or interests. If we unbundle degrees, a student’s path will be customized for her or his needs and more portable across institutions—and education will be more convenient, flexible, and affordable.

Harvard Business Review: The Degree Is Doomed

Chronicle of Higher: College à la Carte: The 'Unbundling' of Higher Education will Allow Students to Earn New Kinds of Educational Credentials

EdSurge: The New College Degree—In an Unbundled World, Curation Is King


Expand Access and Support to Enable Student Success

Current education systems are largely designed for traditional students with access to the financial and social capital needed to succeed. If we use innovative practices to remove monetary, geographic, and academic barriers—while providing additional support—students will be able to start and finish the educational programs they need to succeed.

Brookings: Addressing the Academic Barriers to Higher Education

Barnes & Noble College: Achieving Success for Non-Traditional Students

TEDx: Rethinking Access and Success in Higher Education


Integrated Focus on Education from Birth

Formal education programs often start for children when they are five or six, even though learning begins at birth. Public support for young children and their families often is fragmented across agencies and sectors. When the conditions for learning and development exist from the start of life, children will be better prepared for school and inequalities in early-childhood development will be reduced.

BCG: How—and Why—US Cities Are Rethinking Early-Childhood Education

NPR: U.S. Once Had Universal Child Care, but Rebuilding It Won’t Be Easy

Freakonomics: Does “Early Education” Come Way Too Late?


Develop Career Connections Early

When students develop career-related competencies and gain career-related experiences while in school—such as through partnerships with schools and employers—they are more engaged in learning and better prepared for the future.

BCG: Vocational Education—The Missing Link in Economic Development

WEF: Is the Future of Education Learning by Doing?

Prospects: Brain Science, Education, and Learning—Making Connections


Integrate Brain Science

Researchers discover more every day about the science behind how we learn, yet these insights don’t always make their way into how people teach. If we look for opportunities to integrate brain science into our teaching methods, then we can create educational environments that are more conducive to learning.

EdSurge: Brain Science and Education—How Much Should Teachers Know?

NPR: How to Apply the Brain Science of Resilience to the Classroom

Stanford: Bruce McCandliss Looks at How Brain Science Is Reshaping Education


Emphasize Integrated Social, Emotional, and Cognitive Development

Many emerging careers require higher-order skills than those in prior eras, including the need for greater self-awareness and the ability to cooperate. But employers report that traditional educational models are not producing students with these competencies. If we expand education to integrate foundational literacies with character qualities and social and emotional learning, then we will have the comprehensive skill set needed to meet the demands of the 21st century world.

BCG: How Education Technology Can Help Foster Social and Emotional Skills

Brookings: ABCs and SEL—Integrating Social and Emotional Learning into Academic Preschools

Aspen Institute: National Commission Looks at Nashville Schools


Leverage Innovative Pedagogical Methods

Not all learners learn in the same way, yet it is difficult to differentiate instruction to many students. If we incorporate pedagogical tools and methods that are responsive to individual student needs, enabling them to solve real-world problems, then teachers will be able to meet students where they are and help them build the capabilities required to thrive in school and in the workforce.

Business Insider: Here’s How Technology Is Shaping the Future of Education

Washington Post: The Future of Education Is Virtual

CBS: Khan Academy—The Future of Education?


Improve Student Assessment

The assessments that are broadly used today are limited both in terms of the domains that they cover—such as math and reading—and the tools used. We need to develop rigorous assessments that measure the broader set of skills that students must have for success in career and life. To do this, we can leverage emerging technologies—such as AI and sensors—to enable new methods of measurement.

BBC: Can Technology Kill Off the Exam?

Pearson: The Center for NextGen Learning & Assessment—Dr. Peter Foltz

TEDx: Testing, Testing


Apply Systems Thinking

In order for there to be transformative change in education, education systems must gain competency in implementation and continuous improvement. If we leverage insights from behavioral economics, science of delivery, change management, and networked improvement, then we will be more successful at achieving reform in education ecosystems around the world.

The Systems Thinker: Revitalizing  the Schools—A Systems Thinking Approach

EdSurge: Beyond Design Thinking—Why Education Entrepreneurs Need to Think in Systems

Brookings: Toward Data-Driven Education Systems


Create Place-Based Collective Impact

If the public, private, and social sectors come together at the local level with a clear strategy and long-term commitment to educational progress, we will see systems improve in ways that are very difficult for political and education system leaders to achieve alone.

Getting Smart: What Is Place-Based Education and Why Does It Matter?

Brookings: Community Schools—A Place-Based Approach to Education and Neighborhood Change

Wallace Foundation: Collective Impact and the New Generation of Cross-Sector Collaborations for Education—A Nationwide Scan


Elevate the Teaching Profession

In many parts of the world, teaching does not have the prestige, pay, or career advancement opportunities required to attract and retain the number of talented professionals needed. If we elevate the teaching profession, then we will better recruit, engage, and keep teachers, particularly those who are highest-performing.

Center for American Progress: Nationwide Efforts to Elevate the Teaching Profession

Advance Illinois: Education Organizations Announce New Coalition, Teachers for Illinois’ Future, to Address Teacher Shortage and Elevate the Teaching Profession

SXSW: Supercharging the Teaching Profession by Igniting the Power of One


Promote Equity by Understanding the Link Between Environment & Learning

Many students come to school with social, physical, or mental health needs that prevent them from fully focusing on learning. Some also face complex environmental factors, including trauma, conflict, and systemic inequity. If educators partner with other sectors to identify and meet students’ basic human needs, then we will provide an equitable foundation for learning, reducing barriers and enabling all students to reach their full potential.

Edutopia: Trauma-Informed Practices Benefit All Students

TEDx: Supporting the Whole Child for the Whole World

Brookings: Wraparound Services Still Worth It Even After Accounting for All Costs


Evaluate ROI to Improve Decision Making

The cost of learning, and particularly university tuition, is increasing so much in some parts of the world that many people cannot start or complete the educational programs and degrees needed to advance their lives and careers. If we continually calculate the ROI of education programs—measuring the cost and impact for students, institutions, and stakeholders—we will be able to reduce costs while improving programs with the highest value propositions for students and society.

BCG: Making Digital Learning Work

Bloomberg: Measuring College ROI

Brookings: Using Earnings Data to Rank Colleges—A Value-Added Approach Updated with College Scorecard Data

Future of Education