International Trends and Driving Forces


Schooling for Tomorrow uses a variety of trends to stimulate scenario development processes, based on OECD research. Briefs on these trends and how they relate to schooling and learning are compiled in the SfT Trends resource. Presented below are short introductions for each group of trends.

Ageing Population

People are living longer; the number of children is falling; population structures in OECD countries are changing. These trends raise important questions for the schooling sector. For instance, what role should the school system play in meeting the learning and cultural needs of the elderly? What are the implications for education budgets, given that pension costs are increasing as the population ages? Fewer children allows smaller class sizes: how should this opportunity be used? More years of schooling for the young? To invite adults back for more education?


Broad socio-economic implications for schooling arise. What does it mean for young people to come into education with older parents and fewer or no siblings? As the population ages, should the school-leaving age, or the age at which people begin and retire from work, change? What effects might this have on society? And if the retirement age remains stable, who will pay for education as the ratio of pensioners to taxpayers rises?

Demographic Movement

Global trends in population, migration, and wealth are emerging: Our planet is tending towards overcrowding, particularly in cities, with increasing diversity in OECD countries as people move between nations; inequalities between the wealthy and the poor are increasing at a record rate. These trends suggest questions that pertain directly to schooling. Urbanisation of the population leads to strain on city infrastructure, including schools. How must schools develop to meet this challenge? In multi-cultural societies, schools must meet a wider range of family expectations and aspirations, as well as language backgrounds. Ultimately, schools may even be called upon to act as the key institutions for sustaining social cohesion.


On a global scale, we must ask the question of the role of schools in teaching pupils about inequality and promoting equality. For example, what should schools do to address the 'brain drain' from developing nations to wealthier countries?

The Changing Economic World

Globalisation and the emerging knowledge-based economy bring new challenges to all sectors of society. Many economies have greatly reduced their dependence on industry and now rely more on services. In the new millennium, new forms of communication, primarily the internet, have led to an increasing emphasis on knowledge and information as the key economic drivers. Many institutions are racing to keep up, including the education system. Schools face two key questions: How can they use advancements in ICT to improve education? Secondly, how must they change to better equip pupils for the new challenges in today's information-driven world? With the service sector taking over from industry as the key economic driver, should schools be switching emphasis from fact-learning to competence-building? Should they move from teaching to training? Much time and effort has been devoted to discussion of the new role of higher education in a knowledge economy, but the same cannot be said of schooling.


The implications of globalisation for schooling are not just technological. Global competition is cutting tax revenues and thus public funding for education. How will schools adapt? A sector-wide switch to private funding sources? Diminish the number of schools? How should schools modify curriculum content in a globalised world, with additional languages and cultures gaining importance worldwide, both economically and politically?

Go directly to the Trends Tool to find more detail trend by trend.


The wider environment of schooling (PDF)

Work Society, family and learning for the future (PDF)

21st Century Transitions: Opportunities, Risks and Strategies for Governments and Schools


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Trend analysis as a method


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