Top trends in education

Monday, 01 Mar 2021

There is no doubt that educational trends for 2021 have been influenced by COVID-19, remote schooling and the increased engagement with parents and students and technology. The top five educational trends are outlined below.

1. The wellbeing focus

According to McCrindle’s Education Report (2020) parental expectations regarding their child’s wellbeing at school have increased significantly over the last five years. Almost all nationally surveyed parents (97%) believed schools should have a holistic focus and play an active role in the management of student wellbeing. The question for schools is to what extent should they partner with families to provide wellbeing support. Recent research articulated in the Australian Student Wellbeing Framework notes best practice includes:

  • Visible leadership to inspire positive school communities from engagement through to policies and school’s vision and values
  • Authentic opportunities for student participation, collaboration and student voice
  • Explicit teaching and role modelling of social and emotional skills using evidence-informed practices related to personal safety, resilience, help-seeking, protective behaviours and soft skill development across the curricular and co-curricular opportunities
  • Respecting the diversity of the school community and implement proactive strategies in order to build a cohesive and culturally safe school
  • Proactively building collaborative relationships with families and communities
  • Individual support practices with access to specialist counselling and psychological support

2. Parent engagement

Parent engagement is rising, with two in five parents (41%) becoming more engaged with their child’s schooling over the last two years. In addition, school leaders and teachers are feeling the pressure of increased parent engagement and their desire for information. Three in five parents (60%) expect weekly communication from their child’s school, with one in every fourteen parents (7%) expecting daily communication via emails, calls, blogs, or text messages. School Principals see this increased parental engagement as a positive. Research suggests that highly engaged parents tend to have children that are more engaged in their own schooling journey and often have increased educational outcomes. Best practice in this area includes creating school learning management systems (such as Schoolbox) that can be accessed by parents online and in real time as well as information nights, webinars, blogs and articles, together with a regular guest speakers program. The African proverb that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is more relevant than ever.

3. Normalising Personalised Learning

It is still essential to spend time developing literacy and numeracy skills especially in the early years. It is also, however, essential to innovate with a school’s curriculum and to adapt to modern needs for personalised and inclusive learning, including project-based learning and just-in-time learning. Being able to utilise technology to learn some content or develop a skill as needed for a particular project or task is something the workplace now expects. Student and parental voice, machine learning and artificial intelligence will all have an impact on curriculum development in the next five years. Innovative schools have already started this journey. 

4. Tomorrow’s Technology Today

Virtual reality, augmented reality, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are already having an impact on education. AI products aim to provide personalised learning by differentiating both the content and the testing for each student. In Australia, there are 300 schools using one such product, Maths Pathways. It allows students, teachers and parents to follow the student’s growth rate. Other automated algorithms can save time by checking assignments faster than it takes for any human. Examples include plagiarism checkers, AI writing assistants, writing apps, and dictation apps. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology are coming to the classroom. Many schools now have Immersive VR experiences requiring a VR headset. This has a digital interface that projects images, creating a real or virtual world that users can see and interact with. These devices are used to support richer learning experiences such as virtual field trips, anatomy experiences and even foreign language immersion.

5. World Prepared Graduates

The expected rise of AI and automation in the workplace has led to a focus on developing 21st century skills. As the world of work changes, it is the character qualities of curiosity, adaptability and initiative and the so-called soft skills of interpersonal relations, communication skills, listening skills, time management skills and empathetic understanding that will help create world prepared graduates with leadership skills. Schools need to ensure their curriculum is inclusive of these skills and that their co-curricular opportunities focus on these opportunities as well.

Schools really are exciting places for students, teachers, school leaders and of course parents and I personally am enjoying the current educational trends in my school as they all focus on building opportunities for our students.

Nick Johnstone 


This article appeared in the March 2021 edition of Focus Magazine.