The future of work: education

Male teacher talking to four primary students

How will people learn in the future? And how will teachers in the education industry actually teach?

As the future creeps closer to a new decade one thing is certain. Change is here to stay. As part of our future of work series, we sat down with three Charles Sturt University education academics to discuss how the industry might change over the next couple of decades, and what that means for people who want to get a degree and become a teacher.

Positive for future teachers

Demand for teachers is likely to grow in the future. A birth in Australia every 1 minute and 44 seconds ensures there are always going to be children to teach. And an ageing workforce means teachers will soon be needed to fill positions. Dr Jennifer Munday, Senior Lecturer in Charles Sturt University’s School of Education, emphasised that this demand means it’s important to encourage people who have the desire to enter the profession.

“The baby-boomer generation will retire soon. That will mean opportunity for teachers. The big news around teacher education is the requirement for entry. Often, potential students think ‘I haven’t got the ATAR, so I can’t get in’. But there is always a demand for teachers. That’s why we encourage people to explore various pathways into university. For instance, you could complete a supplementary university degree before moving onto a bachelor’s in teaching. It’s so rewarding to see people graduating who have worked their way through such a pathway. You can see the determination to do what they want to do – become a teacher.”

Becoming adept at adaptability

One of the key trends that will affect workers of the future is a more flexible labour market, as Dr Angela Fenton, Associate Head of the School of Education at Charles Sturt University, explained.

“Gone are the days when we would expect our students to have one career for the whole of their working lives. An education degree needs to prepare students not only for teaching in a traditional classroom, but also for a whole range of other roles that are based around education. For instance, I come from a teaching background, but I’ve also worked as a project officer, with Indigenous children’s services, with disability inclusion organisations; in all sorts of community roles that my education degree set me up for really well.

“So of course, our graduates are well prepared to teach in classrooms in schools. However, they are also set up for working in inclusion, within diverse rural and remote communities, and with vulnerable children and families. Of course, that’s a big ask from any degree. However, that is what we are striving to do and why our courses have a broad focus, so students learn a wide range of skills.”

Dr Munday sees this increased flexibility also having an effect on how individual roles are performed in the education sector.

“Rather than just expecting to teach a group of students in a classroom, there is likely to be more mentoring with smaller groups that extends beyond the traditional 9am to 3.30pm school timetable. So teachers will need to be more flexible, more adaptable to working environments.”

The impact that globalisation has had on the contemporary workforce – and which is likely to increase in the future – means that courses like our teaching degrees prepare students to work in an international labour force, as Dr Fenton explained.

“We have a huge range of international opportunities during degrees. Indeed, many of our students, when they graduate, go on to work in those countries, following up on the experience they had studying abroad. Many students are actually employed where they had a placement, meaning a smooth transition into the workplace.”

Putting the tech into teaching

Technology will be one of the key ways in which flexibility will be facilitated in education. It will make collaboration between educators easy – not just in single locations but across the country and between nations. The ease of modern communication technology is a primary means by which educators can access the very latest theories and practice from around the world.

Technology will increasingly become a part of teaching delivery as well. This is particularly true for the adult and vocational sectors, as Mr Daryl South, a Course Director in Charles Sturt University’s  Faculty of Arts and Education, explained.

“In the vocational market, most students are studying at the same time as working. That means the traditional face-to-face mode of teaching is less common in this sector. It’s why learning technologies have been – and will continue to be – important.”

Mr South also highlighted how university courses are preparing students to embrace the opportunities that technology-integrated learning can present.

“We’re looking at adding programming specialisations to our courses. This will, for example, allow students to develop skills and be able to build apps that will aid their teaching. Information technology skills will also be important in the future for managing training and student data.”

This increased use of technology will extend across teaching sectors and delivery. It will also inform university course content, as Dr Fenton explained.

“Even in early childhood settings, teachers are using interactive whiteboards (IWBs). So we need to prepare teachers to work in a technology-enhanced environment. One of the things we’re doing at Charles Sturt University more and more is liaising with current practising teachers so that we bridge that gap between university and the classroom. It means that not only are our degrees relevant for where teaching is at the moment, but also that the schools benefit from our research expertise in developing their teaching programs. And technology is a huge part of that.”

Dr Munday noted, however, that the use of technology will not usurp teaching professionals.

“I don’t think technology will be a substitute for people. Even with online learning, you will still need qualified professionals creating content and looking at how students learn and progress.”

Getting an A

This person-centred approach to education and teaching is also going to have increased relevance, particularly as technology becomes more and more prevalent. While in the past there had seemed to be an intense focus, for both students and future teachers, on STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – increasingly, this focus is being expanded to become STEAM, which adds the arts into the mix. Dr Munday explained why.

“There are a lot of advocates for STEAM because when you put the A for Arts in there it implies the creative process and creative thinking. These are important in all those other aspects – science, technology and so on.

“Employers are saying that they want to know that prospective employees are willing to take on the creative challenge. To think outside the box. To not assume there is only one right answer to things. So in all our courses we include creative aspects, because creative thinking is of real value to future teachers.”

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Contributors

Dr Jennifer Munday is a Senior Lecturer in Charles Sturt University’s School of Education and Head of Campus for Albury-Wodonga. She specialises in the creative arts and technology. Her research is particularly focused on online learning.

Dr Angela Fenton is a Senior Lecturer and the Associate Head of School for Charles Sturt University’s School of Education. Her primary research focus is early childhood education.

Mr Daryl South is a Course Director in Charles Sturt University’s Faculty of Arts and Education. His teaching centres on adult and vocational education.