Structural Changes in Education

The Role of Technology

Published: 18 September 2012

Structural Change The education sector represents a large and significant market for technology companies across the globe. The potential revenue from the education sector means that the market is increasingly becoming the prime catalyst for technological innovation within the classroom. This is evidenced by the increasing pace of technological change within the education sector. In a world that is consumed by accelerating technological change what are the implications for education systems?

The impact of the information society within the education sector will be slow and progressive to begin with, but as technology takes hold, existing educational structures will be transformed into new educational systems. Technological innovation will lead to ever more complex social, political and economic interactions. The pace of change will be sustained and rapid and at a macroeconomic level it will lead to a shortfall of a skilled workforce that is equipped to deal with the demands and pressures of the knowledge economy. The education sector will have to develop new types of response mechanisms and its institutions will have to change, flex and mould to meet local, regional, national and global trends.

I often write about how technological innovation can bring about about positive changes to the education system. Whilst this transformational process is central to the well-being of education systems across the globe it must be recognised that technological change is also a source of destabilisation and disruption. As ever, educational institutions need to devise and deliver appropriate change management programmes that can deliver the desired educational goals for the respective education body. Future education systems will need to be more adaptable and flexible in order to meet the needs and demands of a highly organic information society. The education sector will continue to evolve and become more integrated than it is today. Education systems will be ever more complex, multi-centered and connected and this will enable education systems to respond more quickly to macroeconomic changes.

The need to formulate and deliver new strategies that will enable schools to have a place, a purpose and success in the information society will result in a restructuring of major education systems across the globe. The birth of these new education systems will be characterised by the emergence of the supernode or the digitally advantaged school where education success will be supported by intelligent networks that deliver tailoured and personalised networked services to learners. However, just as now, we will see structural inequalities where education ICT capital will increasingly be focused around the supernodes and their satellite nodes. The growing concentration of ICT capital within the new supernodes means that the benefits accrued across the education sector from ICT are becoming more problematic. At a national and regional level the benefits gained by ICT may hide the widening digital gap between the supernodes and the have nots at the local level; particularly across neighbouring school catchment areas. There is evidence in the UK to suggest that there are a growing number of supernodes who are benefiting from recent investment programmes in ICT and who have established strong educational and networked service links with their feeder primary schools. Conversely, the have-not schools have failed to secure investment opportunities for ICT infrastructure projects and they have not been able to secure strong educational links with nearby primary schools. Governments will need to play their part to ensure that the education sector does not become ever more segmented.

Technology will always play a major determining role in driving the development of education systems. The relationship that learners, schools and education systems have with technology should not be underestimated. Technology should not be seen as a behavioural phenomenon; rather it responds to (and more importantly affects) virtually all other human behaviours, interactions and institutions[1]. Technological development brings about social, political and economic change and it will inevitably bring about major changes to education systems across the globe. School leaders will have to continuously respond to and manage the transformational power of education technology. The secret to promoting technology within the education sector is the marrying of technological advancement with progressive educational practices so that they can mutually enhance the potential value and possibilities of the other.


1. Michael Brian Schiffer, Technological Perspectives on Behavioural Change (1992)