Future trends in secondary education

  • Future trends in secondary education

Governmental policy, cultural shifts and new technologies can all have a substantial impact on the needs and expectations of both teachers and students, and consequently, on the changes we can expect to see in the classroom. At Cambridge University Press, we have strong research teams working to develop resources according to the needs of students and educational professionals around the world. We are therefore in a unique position to be able to forecast growing trends in education, backed up by this rigorous pedagogical research.

In maths, for example, the emphasis on problem solving at all levels of learning is likely to continue increasing, after its proliferation in the most recent GCSE specifications. While currently it is an especially prominent feature of the Higher Tier Papers, it could soon become more integral to Foundation courses, meaning problem-solving as a concept will have to be emphasised and embedded in young students.

This will mean that teachers will need to further stress the importance of the mathematical method – rather than just getting the answer right – and to find new ways to help students feel comfortable with learning new skillsets, particularly focusing on developing logical reasoning techniques.

Flexible solutions

The growing need for educational resources that support language acquisition is also becoming clear from our work with teachers, and this is an area that we can expect to see more resources developed for. An increasing number of students are learning subject specific content in a second language, for which we must cater appropriately.

As the number of students learning in a second language grows, teachers must focus on the essential content for efficient delivery of instruction. More syllabus-based resources that enable this type of learning will need to be built in order to best equip the students facing this issue with the tools that can support them.

In technology, we can expect to see an increase in flexible blended solutions to support classrooms with different levels of infrastructure and support. While this has relevance to UK schools, this will have a wider impact when looking at approaches to education on an international scale. Edtech products that can function in a variety of formats, and work with a broad range of connectivity will be crucial to ensure access requirements are met.

Time and space

We can also expect to see new approaches to assessment. In particular, there is likely to be a rise of digital and web-based exams, and more opportunities for schools to allow students to complete assessments online. Some of the assessment for the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme is already set to go online with its first testing this year. More may well follow suit at lower secondary levels. Over time, these could gradually replace the traditional exam room. Such new approaches to assessment come with the chance for schools to rethink the way they work with their students. It’s an opportunity to embed the idea of assessment as part of the learning process; rather than how we have in some ways come to see an exam as signifying the end of a topic.

This raises questions around the possibilities of students taking examinations at different times and in different spaces, allowing for more flexible scheduling and assessment. This would depend on the mechanisms and software available to schools. The identities and the original work of students who are sitting exams digitally would need to be verified, as well as establishing methods to ensure they do not have access to websites or materials which could allow them to cheat.

Teaching first

These are just a few ideas about how the education landscape could change in the coming years, based on the needs that are emerging and being identified by teachers and education publishers alike. Whatever changes, however, the goal of educators must always be to meet the needs of the classroom and to tackle the problems that need solving – something that can sometimes be overlooked in the education sector’s enthusiasm for the power of digital resources.

Any new tools that are built, while exciting in the growing possibilities that improving technology allows, must remain secondary to the needs of students and teachers – rather than distract from them.


Michael McGarvey has over 20 years of experience in the global education sector, and currently works as the Director of Education at Cambridge University Press.