By Shaun Fuchs, founder, and CEO of Centennial Schools

Education, like every aspect of modern life, keeps adapting and evolving to meet the needs of society. Unfortunately, the South African education system is not keeping pace with developments and innovation in the education space.

While our government spending on education is one of the highest in the world (20% of GDP), we are not seeing the return on investment reflected across our skilled labor workforce. With our youth unemployment rate at 58%, the second highest in the world, I believe a huge part is attributed to our education system’s failure to prepare young South Africans for the demands and realities of a fast-paced working environment propelled by technology.

Simply put, what we teach our students in school must directly correlate with them becoming thriving, and economically active citizens. I am deeply committed to making this a reality. To keep up with international best practices we’ve re-imagined our curriculum to help our students learn through gaming, we’ve turned classrooms into active learning spaces, and used AI for student assessments all while placing a huge emphasis on student mental health.

Heading into a new year, some of the newest education trends emerging pay much closer attention to individual growth and wellness, as well as recognizing that the world is just a village, and everyone is a mouse click away from anyone else.

Here are four of the major education trends of 2024, and trends we so desperately need to adopt in the South African education system:

education trends
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – JANUARY 13: Mduduzi Nkosi works on his tablet on January 13, 2015 at Boitumelong Secondary School in Tembisa in Johannesburg, South Africa. Launched by the Gauteng MEC for Education, Mr Panyaza Lesufi, the Big Switch On Pilot project is the first step taken by the Gauteng Department of Education to modernize public education and respond to new education imperatives for quality education. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Thulani Mbele)
  • Technology in the service of education: Digital tools and platforms are becoming increasingly prevalent in classrooms, and this enables the education sector to offer personalized learning experiences. In education, there is no “one size fits all” approach, personalized learning means that each student gets a learning plan based on how they learn, what they know, and what their skills and interests are. By integrating artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning into operations, we can aid adaptive learning, implement intelligent tutoring systems, and base our decision-making on data-driven information.
  • The globalization of education: Advances in technology allow for greater connectivity, enabling students to access educational resources anytime, anywhere, and allowing them to collaborate with other students globally. This generation of children is the most tech-savvy generation on the planet. They connect with people around the globe easily and without fear. Focusing on global education prepares our students for a rapidly shrinking world. It helps them establish international relations and future business partnerships. Big benefits of the globalization of education include a greater awareness of other cultures, better transnational collaboration, reduced racism and discrimination, and the spread of technology and innovation.
  • Social-Emotional Learning (SEL): Gone are the days when we expect students just to grin and bear it. There is an increased emphasis on the importance of social-emotional skills alongside academic learning. By focusing on integrating programs and strategies to develop skills such as communication, empathy, resilience, and collaboration we can improve the mental health of our students. SEL focuses on developing self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills. These are the skills that are necessary for success in later life. A study by the World Economic Forum found that students who received SEL training achieved higher marks than those who did not. The study also found that these skills are highly prized by employers.
  • Learning is a lifelong undertaking: With the rapid pace of technological advancement, there is a growing recognition of the need for continuous learning throughout our lives. Students will no longer have single jobs or careers but rather several jobs simultaneously. Because of the rapid progress in technologies, professionals who want to remain competitive in their jobs need to constantly re-skill themselves. We cannot assume that the education our students receive today will equip them to deal with these changes in the future. We need to teach our students self-learning skills so that they can, as professionals, keep up with new developments in their fields and understand that they need to keep on learning.
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At Centennial Schools we have taken a hard look at equipping our students with the skills they need to survive and thrive outside of school, and we have successfully implemented them. It’s not difficult to do, but the will must be there. It is crucial that South African children are exposed to these education trends. It’s the only way to equip them for a brighter future.