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Global survey reflects changing opinion on value of degrees

Three out of four people believe education will fundamentally change due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the latest Global Learner Survey from Pearson has revealed, with the economic situation in many countries leading more and more people to upskill and reskill.

PearsonSelf-study and short courses are more popular than university-level degrees for upskilling and reskilling learners. Photo: Pixabay

44% report self-teaching using online resources

“The pandemic is driving an even greater chasm in the digital divide”

However, this may not be good news for already cash-strapped universities as 46% adult learners opt for short courses provided by professional associations and employers, and 44% report self-teaching using online resources.

“The majority of survey respondents believe that universities have a responsibility to upskill the wider population and get people back to work,” said Anna Jackson, head of customer insights at Pearson told Wonkhe.

“However, opinions about the value of a degree are changing across the world. The survey suggests that markets like China, India and Brazil still value traditional degrees whereas people in the UK and US increasingly believe that you can achieve success without one.”

“People in the UK and US increasingly believe that you can achieve success without [a degree]”

Among those who said they had done some sort of course or training to improve their employment skills, a little over a quarter opted for degree courses, with most preferring short courses, self-teaching or subscription services.

Part of this may be linked to the fact that fewer people see college and university as attainable for the average person, just 47% globally compared to 50% last year. The UK saw the largest drop from 48% to 39%.

Across the world, 72% saw attending vocational colleges and trade schools as more likely to result in a good job than a university.

Almost four out of five respondents also think more people will attend college and university virtually over the next 10 years.

And while 78% believe that in the future online learning will give more people access to quality education, there is widespread recognition that at present it is widening the education divide, with 82% saying that online learning is increasing education inequality.

The results suggest acceptance of the value of virtual learning but serious concerns over its current accessibility.

If their governments made more money available for education, 40% of respondents would want it used on additional computers and technology for underserved learners. Just 17% would want money spent on non-academic resources such as sports facilities or on building refurbishments.

Respondents however appeared surprisingly positive about the response to coronavirus by national education systems, although it must be noted the survey was conducted at the beginning of June and attitudes – particularly in places such as the UK, where the release of students’ exam results have caused a furore – may have changed since.

“While learners are showing great resilience, they are also acutely aware that the pandemic is driving an even greater chasm in the digital divide,” said John Fallon, CEO of Pearson.

“Learners are resilient, so they are learning and moving forward in new ways to seize that opportunity”

“They also struggle with the affordability of education and they worry about health and safety as the school year begins. They see the social justice reckoning happening in so many communities and they feel it stretch into the world of education,” he continued.

“They understand that the future of work and learning is now a dynamic mix of online and in-person experiences. Learners are resilient, so they are learning and moving forward in new ways to seize that opportunity, no matter what the future holds.”

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