What will education look like in the future?

Discover what the future holds for education and find out about the changes in what, when, and how we learn.

16 Sep 2020
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Introduction

The education sector is growing, and with that we see several potential investment opportunities—but what does the future hold for education? In a digitalized era where technology meets education, learning will increasingly have to focus on flexibility, creativity and innovation, interpersonal skills, and mastery of technology.

As working lives get longer and knowledge becomes outdated sooner, university is no longer the final place of learning. In fact, the need to pick up new skills will stretch into retirement age.

While we expect the overall education market to grow over the next decade, private education will expand even more rapidly as the public sector lags the rise in demand. The education technology market looks set to benefit, including education trends in e-learning, for-profit postsecondary education, language learning, and test preparation.

For investors interested in the education sector, we see opportunities in public and private markets through companies that provide education, especially in education technology and ancillary services, and companies that have a superior record than their peers in training and developing their employees.

What we learn

What we learn

The Fourth Industrial Revolution will compel humans to learn in areas that cannot be easily automated.

Human learning will increasingly focus on flexibility, creativity and innovation, and interpersonal skills.

Shifts in what we learn will raise the investment appeal of companies in edtech and education services.

The rise of the service economy requires significant investment in human capital and the specialized training of workers. Today, a wide gap exists between the skills our current education system delivers and what the digital economy demands. In the current paradigm, we specialize in a narrow skill set from a very young age, seek lifetime employment in one industry, and hope to retire with a steady pension. Yet as we discussed in our “Future of the Tech Economy” report, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, driven by enhanced automation and connectivity, is transforming various industries. The role of education in the digital era needs to place more emphasis on developing skills that cannot be easily automated. In our view, these automation-resistant skills are:

Flexibility

Rapid technological change means workers will have to update their skills and learn new ones to stay competitive.

Creativity and innovation

Workers will need to solve problems through unconventional thinking and bring new solutions to market.

Technology skills

There will be a demand to build and apply new technological systems in ways that maximize both human and machine capabilities.

Interpersonal skills

Breaking down complex issues into easily understandable ones will increasingly involve working with others. Emotional intelligence, soft skills such as effective communication, and a diverse global perspective will be key to maximizing productivity.

Investors might explore edtech, as changes in what we need to learn will raise the investment appeal of education technology and education services companies.

When we learn

When we learn

Demographic and technological developments will make lifelong learning imperative.

Advances in technology will allow for greater personalization, engagement, and flexibility in learning.

These trends bode well for the private higher education sector, edtech learning platforms, and companies with superior employee training and development.

Gone are the days when learning is just for the young. Older generations are perfectly capable of contributing to the new economy with the help of lifelong learning; their reschooling and ability to work longer will be an important driver of the jobs of tomorrow. Age is becoming less relevant to a person’s physical and mental fitness, when healthcare innovations make us dream about eternal life. Yet with around 50% of the population in high-income countries being 50 years or older, social systems can no longer justify retirement at 65 or earlier.

Accelerating technological change means postgraduate skills will have an earlier expiry date, compelling workers to acquire new skills. If a specialist skill requires 10,000 hours to master, having a life expectancy of 100 years—873,000 hours—will call for continuous investment to nurture new talents. Given the rising proportion of the labor force with a college degree, greater longevity suggests the demand for ongoing postgraduate education will grow as individuals retrain multiple times across their careers to “upskill” and “reskill.” Learning will shift from being heavily concentrated in the first 20 or so years of our lives to being more spread out across our professional career. At the same time, technology will facilitate a less capital-intensive delivery and more bespoke education with higher levels of personalization. These trends in education bode well for the private higher education sector, edtech learning platforms, and companies that have a superior record than their peers in training and developing their employees.

How we learn

How we learn

In the future, learning will not be confined solely to the classroom as technological developments make delivery possible through multiple channels.

New enabling technologies will broaden access to learning and improve its quality at scale.

These changes open numerous investment opportunities in edtech companies and enabling technologies linked to AI, big data, and machine learning.

The education industry is so much more than a human standing in front of a class. It’s delivered through more comprehensive, less standardized methods, with numerous products, services, and infrastructures serving to meet the demand from this evolution. Until recently, assembling students in one physical location has been the biggest obstacle to scaling education. Today, technological developments are increasingly changing the look of the classroom—and what’s learned in it.

Technology enables education to scale efficiently, at a low incremental cost per student. Still at an emerging stage, the deployment of technology in the classroom—both physical and digital—is disrupting the marketplace as learning migrates from a capital- and talent-intensive brick-and-mortar business model into an experience built for the digital era. Technology will make it easier and less costly to deliver personalized education, empowering individuals to reskill over their lifetimes.

As education technology develops and platforms go global, learning will offer greater personalization, engagement, and flexibility. Through large-scale data processing, deep analysis of user behaviors, speech recognition, and automatic assessment, for example, artificial intelligence (AI) can make customized education available at a relatively low cost. At the same time, AI algorithms can tailor learning programs, including content and teaching methods, to suit individuals’ different modes of learning. And increasing internet penetration broadens access via edtech, allowing students to study whenever and wherever they want. Edtech also supports ubiquitous lifelong learning by bringing education closer to the needs of companies and their employees.

The changes in how we learn will open investment opportunities in edtech companies and enabling technologies linked to AI, big data, and machine learning.

Investment recommendations

Consider public and private market opportunities in companies that provide education, especially education technology and ancillary services. For more, see our “Education services” Longer-Term Investments (LTI) theme.

Companies that have a superior record in training and developing their employees may benefit more than their peers.

Related opportunities include education content and technology service companies; education finance providers; and companies that own, develop, and manage education infrastructure, like student housing. For more, see our “Enabling technologies” and “Security and safety” LTIs.

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