Download article | By Johan Peter Paludan | Published in Personalising Education, OECD/CERI, 2006
It seems likely that the educational system will need to adapt to the increasing individualism in societies. On the one hand, societies believe in the uniqueness of each person and promote the notion that individuals should be able to control more of their own lives. On the other hand, education systems still tend to have fixed content and timing.
Johan Peter Paludan from Denmark takes a futures orientation in this chapter to examine the attitudes, motivations, needs of society, and technological possibilities that might lead the educational systems towards greater personalisation. In doing so, he warns against either underestimating the inertia of education systems or of overestimating their centrality for societies which now enjoy alternative routes to learning and knowledge. Nevertheless, lifelong learning itself requires a large degree of personalisation. In combining two dimensions—economic growth (high to low) and culture (where the extremes are laissez-faire and tight control)—four scenarios develop:
1. Total personalisation (high growth and laissez-faire)
2. Personalised timing (high growth and tight control)
3. Automated teaching (low growth and laissez-faire)
4. The status quo (low growth and tightening control)
Paludan assumes that personalised education will not be possible without simultaneously improving the productivity of the system, especially in circumstances of low growth.
The chapter considers how key stakeholders – students, teachers, parents, the labour market, society – might react. The analysis takes a frank view both of how personalisation might be positive for each stakeholder, and why each group might resist radical change in this direction. Moves towards personalisation may also mean that it becomes more difficult to test what individual students have gained from their studies and more discontinuous education may have negative effects on society’s cohesiveness. Personalisation characterised by easing the individual student’s passage through the educational system will be much less controversial than one that also personalises educational content. A key theme developed by Paludan, despite his preference for personalisation, is that of resistance to change in situations where clarity of outcomes and stakeholder interests are challenged by the personalisation agenda.