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Global Survey Reveals Major Shift in Education Toward Do-It-Yourself Learning

Pearson, the world’s learning company, today released the results of its Global Learner Survey, a new study capturing the voice of learners worldwide. The findings point to massive global transformation in education driven by the shifting economic landscape of the new talent economy, the vast influence of technology and perceptions that education systems are out of step with learners. The study shows that learners around the world are now taking control of their education through a “do-it-yourself” (DIY) mindset, adding to their formal education with a mix of self-teaching, short courses and online learning to keep pace with the talent economy. The survey also shows that learners are thinking beyond the traditional notions of learning, signaling a massive opportunity for education providers to reinvent learning to meet the needs of a new economy.

Pearson conducted the study with Harris Insights & Analytics to give learners in 19 countries including India, the opportunity to voice their opinions on primary, secondary and higher education; careers and the future of work; and technology. More than 11,000 people, ranging in age from 16 to 70, participated in the poll. The survey is the most comprehensive and wide ranging global public opinion survey of learners to date. In addition, Pearson released today Opportunity for Higher Education in the Era of the Talent Economy, a guide to the survey’s implications and opportunities for higher education.

“Gig jobs, unconventional careers, tech disruption and lifelong learning have ushered in the talent economy. Now more than ever, learners understand the need for lifelong education,” said John Fallon, chief executive of Pearson. “People are meeting the demands of this new world of work by taking control of their own learning. Now, technology and innovation are giving educators, governments and companies the greatest opportunity in human history to rise to the occasion and improve lives through education.”

The Global Learner Survey’s top findings include:

● A DIY mindset is reshaping education: People are layering on to their traditional education by mixing and matching what works and what they can afford to get trained up for the new economy. Globally, 81% of people say that learning will become more self-service as people get older. Americans, Australians and South Africans agree most strongly. When they have to retrain for work, 42% of learners in the US and 50% of learners in China and India self-taught using internet resources. When asked what learning methods they prefer when upskilling, about 80% of learners in China, the US, Australia and Europe cited professional short courses or online tools. In India, 79% believe that learning will be more self-service the older you get. India, along with China is the market where parents do not expect the educational systems to do everything for them, but actually play a large role in supplementing their children’s education, whether it comes to hiring tutors, consultants or English classes to help their kids succeed or get admitted to college.

● In the next decade digital and virtual learning will be the new normal. 80% of Americans believe that smart devices and apps will be used to help learners, with people in countries like China and Brazil even more enthusiastic about their use. Globally, 76% of people believe that college students will be taking online courses within 10 years and 67% believe more primary and secondary students will too. 70% of Americans believe that print textbooks will be obsolete in five years. Nearly 70% of people in the US, UK and Europe and 90% of people in China believe that AI will have a positive impact on education. 78% Indians believe that students today have the benefit of using technology to support their learning, which makes it easier and more fun. There is a strong belief (74%-79%) that smart devices will play a greater role in learning, virtual learning will become more common, print textbooks will become obsolete, and YouTube will become a primary learning tool.

● Lifelong learning is not just a philosophy, it’s the new reality: Globally, there is wide agreement that people need to keep learning throughout their career to stay up-to-date in their careers. 87% of Americans embrace lifelong learning, believing that learning doesn’t stop at school. That belief rises to 96% of people in China and 94% of people in South Africa. 73% of Americans like to reinvent themselves by learning new skills, and 52% intend to “retire” the traditional concept of retirement by pursuing a second career or part time job, starting a business or taking classes. 84% of Indians end up choosing a career based on what they majored in out of which 31% ended up switching careers eventually. 76% believe that the notion of working for one employer your entire career and the idea of traditional retirement is old-fashioned 25% of Indians aspire to start their own business post retirement; followed by a second career doing something they love (20%) or a part-time job to get some sort of income (15%). 60% of Indians believe that the world is shifting to a model where people participate in education over a lifetime.

● Confidence in education systems is wavering, especially in the US. 60% of Americans say education systems are failing the current generation. That perception is just as strong in Europe and even stronger in South Africa, Brazil and Hispano America. 67% of Americans believe college is getting more out of reach for the average student. Almost as many in the US don’t believe colleges and universities are teaching the right skills for today’s jobs. However, this does not hold true in India as a large percentage of the population (59%) believe that the education system in the country works well for the current generation and helps them keep up with the latest trends in technology and changing workforce.

● Gen Z thinks you can be successful without a traditional college education. Despite statistics showing a higher lifetime earnings with a college degree, half of Gen Z learners in the US, UK and Australia think you can do “ok” in life without it. Globally, 68% of learners think you can do just as well with an education from a vocational or trade school. In India, 22% learners indicated that a formal education is nice, but not necessary or relevant today as one can create their own success and prosperity without it. 39% of college goers say that given a choice, they would get trade or vocational training instead of college while 15% say they would go straight to work after leaving high school.

● China, India, Brazil and Hispano America are outpacing the US and UK in the upskilling race and defining a new global economy. More than anywhere else in the world, people in China, Brazil, India and Hispano American believe education is driving the global economy. More than two-thirds of learners in these countries have been looking to re-skill in the past two years, compared to only 31% of Americans and 24% of British learners. Workers who do upskill are enrolling in short courses, taking courses offered by their employers or professional associations, degree programs or are self-teaching.

● Soft skills have an advantage over automation: While STEM skills aren’t forgotten, many also realize that uniquely human skills will give them the edge over machines and that they are very hard to learn. Globally, 78% of people say they need to do more to develop soft skills like critical thinking, problem solving and creativity, while 85% of Americans and 91% of Chinese believe universities need to increase their focus on teaching these skills in preparation for the job market. In India, most agree that they need to do more to develop their STEM/tech skills (76%) there is also a high percentage that says they need to do more to develop their soft skills (78%).

● Americans also feel strongly about safety in schools and access to education: 84% of Americans say schools are less safe than 25 years ago, the highest percentage in the world and just as many say bullying (online and in person) is making school more difficult for children. Ahead of the 2020 presidential election, 71% of Americans agree that government should provide some kind of free higher education. On the heels of the college admission scandal, 72% of Americans say universities care more about their reputation than educating students.

● Learners in the UK have their own concerns: 77% of people in the UK say social media has made the school environment more difficult for students, while less than half say it actually improves learning. 46% of those in the UK would rethink their higher education decision and get vocational training or go straight to work. More than anyone else in the world, UK learners felt higher education didn’t prepare them for their chosen career.

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