Education in the 21st Century: Development and Challenges essay

It is clear that the world has changed significantly over the past decades. Globalization together with the growing role of informational technologies has changed each sphere of human life over a very short period. It is not surprising that education is being changed along with other fields of human activities. It is adapting to the requirements of the new world and the rules that govern it. However, not everyone realizes that the educational system is undergoing significant changes nowadays. The modernization of educational system that is happening in the 21st century is not just an adjustment to new conditions, but it is a transformation of the whole system, its elements, and rules. Through the review of the US educational system and the changes in higher education throughout the world in the 21st century, this paper shows how significant this change is. Also, it shows how greatly it influences the future of higher education.

History of the US Educational System

There has been a tremendous change in the educational system of the United States. As per the moment, United States has the best universities in the world. Looking in historical records, the formation of the US education system began in the early decades of the 17th century when the British started to colonize North America. It is known that the first English colonies appeared on the territory Massachusetts Bay and the State of Virginia. On the arrival of the first European settlers in America, they faced two questions. One of them was on which parts of their cultural heritage had to be retained. The other was on which had to be given up, and how to preserve and enhance this legacy. Their answer was a town school. For 30 years, after the first settlement turned into Massachusetts in 1620, all the cities were ordered to hire schoolteachers to teach children reading, writing, arithmetic, and the law of God. The bigger cities were demanded to create secondary schools to prepare the younger generation for the university. In 1787, the Council of the continent ordered that each new settlement in the Northwestern area had to allocate a free piece of land for a public school.


If one talks about universities, Harvard University in Massachusetts was founded in 1636, and William and Mary University in Virginia was established in 1693. In 1776, on the eve of the American Revolution, there already were fourteen colleges; by 1800, another twenty were founded. At the time, the school had not only to preserve the elements of a classical education but also taught crafts necessary for the formation of a new North American nation. The Americans have borrowed much from the British, French, and German systems of education. It has led to the fact that even in the middle of the 19th century in the curriculum of the same school were such subjects as Latin, livestock, arithmetic, and housekeeping.

US Educational System Adjustments in the 2nd Half of the 20th Century

There have been a number of adjustments in the second half of the 20th Century. Here we are going to focus on the adjustments that have been factored in the educational system of the United States. By considering the requirements of everyday’s life, colleges and universities had to develop and improve so that institutions allowed for social integration. Public universities currently bear the names of their state, and their achievements are considered the achievements of the state. The work of the technical and agricultural departments of educational institutions was designed to promote the development of the country; the expanded program on agriculture and household was created for the research for the benefit of the residents of the state. Private universities stood apart long enough, considering themselves national institutions dealing with universal truths in the classical sense. Donations of their successful graduates allowed them to grow as tax revenues brought prosperity of the state universities.

Despite the fact that in the whole world there is no other school system that can cover such a number of students;  show such generosity, allowing open-mindedness of the youth; act with such perseverance, the modern American educational system still reflects national and social problems. Since it mainly exists on the basis of the public funds, it is being affected by the stressful economic situation, which the country is experiencing at the moment. As one of the factors that formed the America of the 20th and 21st century, the national educational system is exposed to conflicting opinions about what it should become in the future.

For the past few decades, the threatening challenge in the American education systems was the reform of the curriculum. At the end of the 1960s, the academic curriculum was modified to be better adapted to the interests and tastes of students. It was agreed to carry out investigations in high school: the three pillars of the school education (reading, writing, and arithmetic) were noticeably neglected, while the focus shifted to the subjects that students could choose themselves. However, the country conducted tests showed that, as a result, students lost many of acquired skills, and this caused alarm. In the mid-1970s, there was a noticeable departure from the experiment and a return to the fundamentals of learning. In many states, authorities began to test skills that students who were graduating from high school received. Emphasis on the study of the core subjects was increased in the 1980s in recognition of the need to provide students with some knowledge in technical fields such as computing and communications equipment. The value of traditional engineering and the humanities increased again. In the period from 1980 to 1990, most states increased the number of subjects the study of which required obtaining a certificate of graduation.

The situation seemed more complicated with the new decision on the issue of the college curriculum. On the one hand, students expected that a university education would bring them into the world of sophisticated technologies and prepare for an increasingly competitive labor market. On the other hand, teachers, educated in the spirit of classical traditions, complained that fewer students were willing to explore art, science, philosophy, and history seriously. Despite the ongoing debate in the humanities, many students realized that the presence of these degrees did not give them the chance for a promising professional career.

The Changes Challenges of Education in the Modern Era

Characteristic features of the modern period of civilization are profound consequences of the unprecedented magnitude of dynamic changes in life. Globalization in education leads to the increase of academic mobility, unification of curricula, and teaching methods as well as the wide spread of distance education. Under these circumstances, there was an understanding of the need for new forms of education.

In 1971, at the Conference of European Ministers, it was outlined five main directions for the development of education: mutual recognition of diplomas; creation of a European University; cooperation of secondary and higher education; creation of a European Centre for the Development of Education; establishment of unlimited state borders for higher education. In 1976, there was the presentation of the Program of Action. In 1992, the Maastricht Treaty was signed, aimed at forming common European education. In June 1999, the Bologna Declaration was created, which was a turning point in the development of the higher school and European integration.

The formation of the European educational area in the 21st century is subject to the following tasks: increasing the possibilities for graduates to be employed; enhancing the mobility of citizens; boosting potential competitiveness of education. In September 2001, Paris hosted an international conference on education. Its members (represented by 127 countries) drew attention to the reforms designed to improve the quality of education in the context of globalization, cultural diversity, scientific and technical progress, and identify new approaches to outlining the principle of learning.

Globalization processes occurring in the modern world have become a catalyst for the transformation of the traditional educational system. The activities of most educational institutions are transformed with the development of information technology. There is the formation of a single educational space and world education market. Thus, the primary task of education in the 21st century is to use new information technologies in order to spread knowledge. These technologies allow delocalizing the system extension by using distance-learning technologies, thanks to which quality education is available to every inhabitant of the Earth, regardless of his or her place of residence. Such education is the most democratic way as it can be adapted to any level of knowledge and individual requests. In this regard, many countries are turning to the idea of continuous distance learning, in which basic education is considered only as preparation for a professional career. In the context of the intensification of scientific knowledge as the foundation of the global economy, education throughout life should be a priority.

Globalization of education involves integration and coordination of national educational systems. Therefore, the problem of strategic orientation and integration of national education systems is highly significant. Civic education should strive to maintain the best traditions and standards of classical education. It is necessary to provide innovations in the domestic education. Reforms of the educational system should be focused on the development of a model that takes into account both local experience and the best achievements of world educational practices.

The 21st century is the era of the information society and technological culture. The formation of a global information society poses the problem of the spread of knowledge. Distance education gives everyone a possibility to learn; allows the society to offer educational services to each member, regardless of geography, government, time, and other factors. The strategic goal of distance education is to provide citizens with the right to education at all levels in their place of residence or professional activity. This goal is achieved in line with the global trend of the mobile extension and the exchange of educational resources.

According to various experts, higher education will be a minimum level of education for an average employee in the 21st century. Nowadays, internationalization of education is evaluated not only according to its content but also its training and organizational forms. Education becomes a tool to both the interpenetration of knowledge and technology, and the capital instrument in the struggle for solving geopolitical problems. In these conditions, distance educational technologies, which possess a high degree of coverage and are of long-range, play a significant role.

According to the US program of distance education, more than 1 million people is enrolled. Learning courses are available nationwide through educational channels, and they are also available abroad. E-learning programs, which have already firmly entered the US higher educational system, are being developed in other countries. In Europe, the National University of Distance Education in Spain recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. University comprises 58 learning centers in the country and nine abroad.

The distinctive features of the educational process of the 21st century are flexibility, adaptability, modularity, economic efficiency, customer orientation as well as reliance on advanced communications and information technology. It is believed that education based on information technology is the third global revolution in human development: the first is related to the advent of writing whereas the second to the invention of printing. New information technologies in education have significant advantages. They contribute to reducing the backlog of the peripheral areas and other university centers in the context of free access to education, information, and cultural achievements of human civilization. They create conditions for the development of world education, its export and import, and, the global association of intellectual, creative, informational, scientific, and pedagogical potential. Educational innovation is expected to affect the resolution of complex social and economic problems successfully, especially in the spheres of eradication of unemployment, crime, etc. Modern telecommunications facilities allow developing effective teaching techniques and improving the quality and accessibility of education.

Still, despite the bright future of the educational system in the 21st century, there remain some strategic issues that have to be solved for the further development of information technology education. The modern educational system requires systematization, as there should be a unified strategic policy of the educational process. The educational system of the 21st century should become complex, which includes sharing of psycho-pedagogical, educational, and organizational support of educational information technologies. In order for the system to work, the level of communication technologies has to be raised. Moreover, existing information educational systems are qualitatively different from each other by model, technologies, forms of organization Thus, to become universal, they need to be standardized. The solution for the above problems would lead to a sharp improvement in the quality of education.

Today, the national education system is undergoing a major transformation. There is a search for ways to reform this field in the light of the Bologna process. The desire to adapt to the world standards of education is driven by the need to prioritize solutions for the critical issues, such as the definition of the place of the university in the modern world and changes in the content of higher education. Therefore, such transformation may modernize educational structures, improve teaching methods, introduce new technologies into the educational process, etc.

Discussion and Conclusion

Major transformations in the life of the society and the state have also involved higher education. By becoming an autonomous and independent sphere, higher education seeks to adapt to the new conditions, focusing on global education standards. However, finding ways towards emerging changes in this field should not mean blind adherence to international rules. It seems appropriate to use the positive aspects of the global education system, without betraying own educational traditions. Among the key issues of development of the higher education system should be: definition of the university's place in the modern world and changes in higher education.

One cannot ignore the fact that, as in other areas, education has developed its services market, and, like any market, rivalry and competition are inherent in it. Today, new approaches to the organization of the university, flexible management, and opening prospects are required. In an emerging market, a competitive advantage is achieved with the help  of tools such as strategic planning, which involves developing a set of organizational measures aimed at possible changes, primarily the internal and external environments in the future; determination of the position of each college in sub-standard conditions of the education market. This process is based on a comprehensive analysis, as has already been established, and projected functioning of educational institutions, taking into account such important transformations as changes in the conditions and procedures for admission to universities; transition to a qualitatively new model of education; the possibility of minimizing the complex education system due to the looming demographic crisis; increasing competition in the education market.

Nowadays, it is obvious that the classical universities are experiencing a critical condition caused primarily by globalization and informatization, a wide-scale practice of education with narrowing functionality. The world of ancient universities was rooted in the past; therefore, they must adapt to the new reality but remain the heart of scientific and educational centers, which prepare highly qualified specialists. Universities will, along with the modernization of university education, perform a major role in large-scale design and integration processes in the scientific, educational, and cultural spheres.


Education in the 21st Century: Development and Challenges essay

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