Marshall Cavendish Education Conference Explores Recipe for Success in 21st Century Learning

Digital advancements, together with the likes of demographical evolution and globalisation, are the biggest contributors to the changes in requirements needed in the education industry. One of the most crucial challenges we face right now is how students can be prepared adequately so that they are able to thrive in a dynamic and fast moving world, where careers they someday enlist in don’t yet exist and current job opportunities that they are studying towards will have become obsolete by the time they are ready for the workforce. How can education stay relevant and what does 21st Century learning entails?

This was the topic of discussion at the fifth Marshall Cavendish Education Conference in Singapore. With a theme of ‘Putting Change into Context – A Journey into 21st Century Learning’, the biennial event, organised by Marshall Cavendish Education, a renowned global educational solutions provider, brought together some of the most influential local and overseas experts in education to share their insights on holistic learning through the use of curriculum, technology and professional development to empower teachers and engage learners.

There is no question that a robust approach is a necessity for holistic learning, which if done well, can ensure a smooth and efficient transition from school to the workplace. However, are the skills being taught in schools today enough to meet the demands of the 21st Century economy? In the innovation-driven, rapidly changing world we live in, being able to read and write, and solve arithmetic problems are no longer enough for employers. The future generation must amplify these traits by acquiring and being able to demonstrate creative thinking skills, ability to problem solve, communicate and collaborate in order to draw the attention of potential employers who might offer them opportunities to grow and shine. With demographical evolution and globalisation, students must become a generation that values tolerance, social justice, open mindedness, empathy, and deep respect for others to succeed in the 21st Century.

To get this right, schools must become learning centres that offer a platform for these students to keep asking questions, build confidence, be inquisitive and stay curious on all accounts. Currently, it is evident that schools are still predominantly teacher dominated that bank on regular high stake examinations to assess the students. Too much emphasis is placed on the outcome or the grade, but to be 21st Century ready, educators must embrace change and move towards a focus on the process rather than the outcome so that students can become much better at areas such as reasoning development, and concept explanation. It is the role of academic institutions and educators to teach students metacognitive methods – the analysis of one’s own thinking processes - and the ability to learn how to learn, to put them in good stead for future challenges.

Mathematics is a perfect case in point for the discussions across the three-day Marshall Cavendish Education Conference as students who have demonstrated a clear understanding of the need to arrive at the solution through ‘mastery’ rather than applying formulae that are memorised and then regurgitated out. With many Asian countries including the likes of China (Shanghai), Singapore, and Hong Kong known for their academic excellence, where the ‘mastery’ approach has already been implemented with known results, there are many success stories which other nations can benchmark against and eventually model after for their own utilisation.

A little over a month ago, the UK-government announced a £41 million investment in ‘Asian Maths’ for primary schools across England to help students improve on the subject. While the ‘mastery’ concept from Asian countries will  initially only be implemented  for Maths lessons, students should be able to adapt the approach and administer it across other subjects through their newly learned way of tackling problems and be 21st Century ready.

Lee Fei Chen, Head of Publishing of Marshall Cavendish Publishing Group said:

“We will see a lot of change in the world of education as the 21st century progresses. As a publisher of print and digital education solutions, we have to ensure our content encourages a holistic approach to learning that offers interactive dialogue between the teachers and their students. While the discussions over the last few days at our conference have been about how to make sure education stays relevant, we need to continue to facilitate and contribute to the conversation between the educators, parents, students and media. The challenges around 21st Century learning is very much real, and we have to make sure we have the solutions for them.”


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