Forecast of Global Education Sector Sees Growth, STEM Focus

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

The Intelligence Unit of The Economist magazine has released a report titled “Education to 2030” that claims that economic, social, and technological developments are making a quality education more important than ever before — but also that these same trends are creating new pressures on the affordability of schooling, school budgets, and the labor market.

Consequently, all of the institutions involved in the education sector — the government, the private sector, educators and administrators, and the schools themselves — will need to collaborate in expanding and improving access to education and making sure that students are acquiring the skills they need.

The Economist Intelligence Unit develops a picture of what changes the education landscape will undergo over the next 14 years. The report identifies five education indicators over a mix of 25 economics that will predict successful education outcomes. The indicators are related to three tends: shifting demographics (public expenditures on education), the future of work and the skills needed to succeed (youth unemployment and STEM graduates), and the use of technology (internet access in schools).

Researchers found that 15 of the 25 economies studied will raise public expenditures on education as a percentage of GDP. Additionally, the research predicts that number of STEM graduates will increase considerably across the board, albeit at varying rates depending on the economy.

Experts, however, express concern over quality in both areas; greater public spending on education and more students graduating with STEM degrees do not necessarily indicate higher-quality education. If quality is not accounted for, these experts worry that already existing problems, like youth unemployment, could be exacerbated. In some economies, youth unemployment has reached unprecedented levels after the global financial crisis of 2008.

The researchers argue that making what they call “tertiary education” is vital in developed and developing countries. Only a college degree will give students the skills needed to succeed in the modern, globalized economy.

Encouragingly, the report forecast the cost of a 4-year degree as a percentage of income to fall in over half of the economies studied — an important point since the cost of higher education is often the biggest deterrent to attainment. The researchers noted, however, that in some countries like India, Russia, Turkey, and the United States, a college education will still cost multiple annual incomes.

Additionally, youth unemployment rates will remain at current levels or even rise in 16 of the 25 economies, and internet access will be expanded in most areas but remain poor in some economies.

Chris Clague, a senior editor with the The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, said: “Over the next decade-plus, we are going to see significant changes in the skill sets that are in demand and that is going to be a problem unless the education sector finds a way to be more adaptive than it is now. Fortunately, there are a lot of ideas about how to address the issue. Identifying the best ones and figuring out how to scale them will be key.”

For interested readers, the full report can be found online.