The Education system as we know it today has been shaped by the forces of the last 150 years – it is very much a product of the industrial revolution and the industrial age. Education, like industrialisation, has become driven by quantitative metrics of production and consumption predicated on specialisation, division of labour, standardisation, consistency and quality control. While the production of test grades has been dramatically successful the economics of their production are changing significantly.
Information is the natural resource of the education system – during the industrial era access to information was relatively controlled and scarce. The Web has upset the “economy” of information – with the web information has become abundant and uncontrolled.
Production methods in education have remained largely unchanged over 150 years (institutions and teachers) while the costs of these operation have increased. The application of technology, while not altering operational methods, has added massively to production costs.
If test results are the “currency” of education then the very success of education in producing test results has led to a type of test result inflation.
Education systems are complicated and the effects of “economic” pressures are difficult to predict – there are many scenarios.
The future of education described here is predicated on the strength of institutional-power - the Machiavellian like “Shirky Principle” that “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.
Production cost: Solution
While technology has been a key factor in reducing production costs in industry through automation efficiencies this hasn’t happened in education. The resource of education is information but the types and uses of information technology used so far have only added to production costs.
Educational technologists may get excited about the prospect of increasing use of information technology in educated learning but it may not be the future they are expecting.
A Machiavellian education system will seek ways to reduce labour and production costs through particular uses of information technology.
The future of education will be automated through information technology
The future of education will be increasingly measured, specialised, standardised, consistent and quality controlled through information technology.
Education will be produced and available through Managed Learning Environments with automated testing and resource delivery. Help with the education product (MLE) will be available through support operatives (teachers) able to coach users through the system, get test scores and progress to the next level. Ultimately this user support will be provided through automated guidance or globalised “call centre” operators.
Resource costs: Solution
A Machiavellian education system will seek ways to define and control the value of and access to its own resources. The education system will create increasingly self referencing resources, processes, tests and measures to maintain control of its own “currency” and resources. While it may be possible to take an automated test without an associated course it is unlikely that you will be able to achieve as well as those who have had access to the specialised resources and teaching that support the test. Ultimately it will not be possible to take a test without first enrolling on a course where you can be properly processed for the test and it will not be possible to enrol without first having been processed through lower level courses.
Currency Inflation: Solution
If test grades are the “currency” and purpose of education then a Machiavellian education system will seek “monetary” policies to maintain control. “Exchange rates” and “denominations” willbe defined as required to alter the value of the currency rather than the value of the system – for example, if too many people achieve grade A then the system can define additional sub units such as A* Ultimately testing will feedback and through the entire system so that all experiences are properly aligned for maximum production. Exam boards will produce automated managed learning environments to align and process learners through to final testing.
The education system is like a self contained bubble from the the past industrial era. If institutional-power factors shape the response of the education system to future pressures then the future may be an expanding education bubble – self contained and reinforced by technology