News & insights

  • Disrupting Education Systems to Develop a New Generation of Problem Solvers

    Technology has revolutionised the world. With automation, artificial intelligence and digital technology pervades our everyday lives, the key question to ask is: How do we prepare our learners for a future world governed by technology? At Pearson’s conference on “Growing Global Education Now!” held at Kuala Lumpur in October, educators from across South and Southeast Asia heard from global education consultant, Mr. Charles Leadbeater, how to lead the way into a global learning movement.

    Mr Charles Leadbeater

    Learning to be better humans

    “The future is going to be vastly different from what we have now. We will see traditional jobs undergoing a radical upheaval in the next 10 years. Some jobs are slowly disappearing while others will require different types of skills or processes to work with technology,” Leadbeater explains.

    He expounds on the danger in our education systems where young people are taught to learn by routine, where they follow instructions and process information, then regurgitate the knowledge in examinations in order to get the grades required.

    “That is going to leave young people in the dead end because, in the future, any activity which requires the processing of lots of data will see robots and artificial intelligence outperforming humans. What we have to do is to develop young people who will be better humans,” he theorizes.

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    The future comes with no instruction manual

    Leadbeater states that if education is going to prepare learners for the future, it needs to shift from a model of “following instructions” to one of “solving problems”.

    In conducting the research for his book, The Problem Solvers, Leadbeater visited innovative and progressive schools all over the world who have applied unique models of teaching and learning. While their curriculums are dissimilar to one another, he found one common thread among them: dynamic education which incorporates exposure to the real world while also developing the holistic aspects of each learner.

    “Preparing young people to be creative problem solvers requires a combination of old and new methodologies. The most impressive schools that I go to are a mixture of the very new -- progressive techniques and digital technologies -- and the very old -- methodologies to build character, personal strengths, entrepreneurship and outward learning,” he says.

    However, he warns educators against the common trap of falling prey to false dichotomies that divide between knowledge and skills, theory and action, traditional and progressive or digital and real-world learning.

    The dynamics of learning

    Leadbeater explains that dynamic learning is an experience of a structured, yet active kind of learning that gives learners the experience that they take into the world. “My hypothesis of dynamic learning is that it has four critical elements. Young people should be equipped with a combination of knowledge, personal strengths, social skills and a capacity for agency. When you go to good schools and you see good teachers, what they’re doing is designing and orchestrating the dynamic combinations of these four ingredients,” he informs.


    Firstly, knowledge, which forms the foundation of learning. The journey into knowledge starts with the basic skills of literacy and numeracy, moves on to the knowledge of core content and even further into higher-order concepts and thinking skills to challenge, question and adapt existing knowledge.

    Leadbeater states that while the basic building blocks of knowledge help learners to know about the world around them, it is more crucial to have a theory of knowledge. He emphasised that it is the ability to discern, analyse, research, think critically and combine different disciplines of knowledge that becomes the basis for creative problem-solving.

    The second element acknowledges that education needs to be a personal journey of growth and discovery. This focuses on developing personal attributes of character that will count later on in life.


    “Qualities such as growth, resilience, persistence and purpose are just as important as knowledge if young people want to thrive and succeed in the real world. Not only do they need to learn how to be resilient and adaptive, but they will also need to have a clear sense of purpose, to know the difference they want to make and the value they want to add to the world,” Leadbeater shares.

    The third element covers social skills where learners are encouraged to deepen their relationships with other people by learning how to connect, communicate and collaborate in order to achieve things together.

    This involves methods which facilitate collaboration between learners, such as getting them to work together in groups on a certain project or problem. The process would involve dialogue and discussion, as well as tapping on the diverse skills and outlooks of the different members of the group. This is where the skills of collaboration come in handy, something which cannot be effectively taught in the classroom.


    The last element, agency, is the route to take action, primarily to make a contribution to the world by helping other people. Agency is the true test of learning, where learners turn knowledge and ideas into action in order to make a difference to the world. The way that this can be done is by incorporating projects like making things, running a business or serving the community.

    “In order to get the students to be really interested, find something real that matters to them. The need for learning is stronger if it makes a difference to someone else. For example, one of the schools I visited in Spain asked students to build houses for refugees. They were able to take responsibility for their own learning and integrating knowledge from multiple disciplines such as science, economics, geography, language and technology,” Leadbeater says.

    study butterflies

    Making the shift

    In introducing these four elements of dynamic learning, how can they be effectively applied in schools to create a more dynamic education system? Leadbeater explains that it would require the combination of dynamic teachers, dynamic curricula and dynamic methods of assessment.

    “Several countries like Canada, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong have already led the way in developing hybrid curricula which foster a mix of skills. More critically, we need to shift the focus of assessments on knowledge to an assessment of skills that students need to acquire to succeed. Dynamic learning requires dynamic forms of assessment which involve both formative and summative, online and in action, in the exam hall and in the real world,” he shares.

    To overcome the challenge of implementing this on a larger scale, Leadbeater urges educators to be an active participant of this global learning movement.

    He concludes by saying, “Education is not just about gaining knowledge and getting the grades. It is about building young people who can make a difference for our world. We must prepare them for an uncertain future, which is open and full of possibilities but also facing deep and urgent challenges that need to be addressed. We want to create a generation of problem solvers who excel at being human and come with the human capacity to care, to empathise and to create.”

    To continue the conversation on Dynamic Learning please join the International Schools Community. If you would like further information on qualifications resources to support your classroom please visit us here.


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  • Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century


    Teaching learning

    Modern measures of language ability focus on performance, which, according to Philip Warwick, is good news for digital residents because learning a language can improve attention spans and executive function—two cognitive functions being negatively affected by our addiction to our devices.

    To study butterflies you can catch one and carry it home in alcohol, and then affix it to a board and examine it with a magnifying glass. Or you can spend time in the butterfly’s habitat watching it and understanding it.

    Teaching learning illustration

    Modern ideas about learning languages effectively tip towards the latter. Two related measures of performance, Pearson’s Global Scale of English (GSE) and the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), both focus on what you can do in a language—the butterfly as a living thing in its environment—and not the intricacies of a language like its grammatical rules—the study of the butterfly through a magnifying glass. That’s not to say rules are unimportant. It’s just that rules underpin the ability to do things in a language and that’s become the focus.

    People who study butterflies are called “lepidopterists.” You wouldn’t teach that word to elementary students; maybe not even to advanced students. However, you might teach the word “lepidopterists” to a higher-level science or a CLIL class...or if you were teaching English to a class of zoologists.

    So, added to the idea of the primacy of performance—because learning a language is skills-based—is also the idea of teaching students by identifying their needs. This means moving from a “synthetic” approach,

    that’s linear, to an analytic approach, that looks to make the learning fit students’ requirements. This shift means teachers teach students using materials...instead of using materials to teach students.



    In 1969, a British study set out to understand how long secondary school students could pay attention for in class. After visiting 250 secondary schools, the team decided that the teenagers’ attention spans were around fourteen-and-a-half-minutes long. When they conducted a further study in 1998, teenagers’ attention spans had fallen dramatically—to under five minutes. Although the survey team ran out of funding, there’s evidence that attention spans are even shorter today.

    In 2001, Dan Prensky famously wrote that we were either digital natives—teens and millennials born into the digital era; or digital immigrants people born before the digital era and who were struggling, to various degrees, to adapt to the changes. Now, it’s widely accepted that we’re all digital residents switching constantly between devices and filling downtime with screen time.

    The effects have been measured in another study, this one conducted in 2015 by Microsoft Corp. They found that people lose focus after around eight seconds. That study placed humans a little behind goldfish who are thought to be able to pay attention for a second or two longer, on average. Popular culture seems to be shifting to accommodate these changes: Instagram stories flash past in a couple of seconds; in May this year the musician Tierra Whack released an album that had fifteen tracks but that only lasted fifteen minutes; advertisers are being forced to make an impact in just six seconds—known as “the six” in modern industry parlance.


    Authentic Learning

    Nurturing the brain’s air traffic control system

    The set of mental skills called executive function is like “the air traffic control system at a busy airport.” It can be broken down into three basic dimensions. Our working memory is the cognitive function that allows us to temporarily hold information and retrieve it for immediate use. Working memory has also been connected with decision-making, behavior, and reasoning. Inhibitory control is an individual’s ability to resist natural or habitual impulses. And cognitive flexibility is the capacity to switch gears and adjust to changing demands, priorities, or perspectives.

    Although humans aren’t born with these skills, they are developed by engaging in meaningful social interactions and “activities that draw on self-regulatory skills” throughout childhood, adolescence, and into even adulthood. There are concerns that the development of these skills is being inhibited by “smartphone-related habits.” Harvard University have even issued an activities guide, “Enhancing and Practicing Executive Function Skills with Children from Infancy to Adolescence,” with ways to actively develop cognitive function with toddlers, children, and adolescents.

    In their parenting resource, Harvard recommend hide-and-seek games and imitation games for 6- to 18-month olds. But by ages 3-5, one way they recommend to develop executive function is through “bilingual storytelling,” as, according to Harvard, “it has been found that bilingual children of many ages have better executive function skills than monolingual children.”


    study butterflies

    The importance of performance and teaching the class not the course

    Lots of ideas around teaching a language exist along a continuum. At one end, for example, might be accuracy and at the other end fluency. At one end there might be teacher-centered approaches, at the other student-centered classrooms. As these are continuum, depending on the class, the approach may swing slightly, and so a beginner class might necessitate a more teacher-centered approach.

    As resources like Harvard’s point to the importance of learning languages, and modern assessments, like the CEFR and Pearson’s GSE, focus on performance—what you can do in a language, not what you know about the language—the role of the language teacher has been validated. And a teacher who is student-centred, and allows learners lots of chances to talk in a program of study that’s tailored to their needs is likely to be successful. After all, a great teacher does all the work outside of the class and allows students to do all the work inside the class.

    Winnie has also noticed that her staff are less observant than before, perhaps because of their over-reliance on technology. “People are so focused on the screen they don’t realize what’s happening around them. There are times I want them to drop their devices and just be present and aware of what is happening,” she says.

    For more information and resources to support 21st Century teaching, please visit us at


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  • Skills For Employability In Vietnam: Three Industry Experts On The Past, Present, And Future Of Work




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    Fears about technology displacing jobs are unfounded. Historically technology has created more jobs than it has erased. Clearly, there’s a complex interplay of factors, such as the way climate change is creating jobs in “green” industries. However, it’s also obvious that the skills we need to be a success are changing. Here, three industry experts from Asia talk about the shifting professional landscape in Vietnam.


    Economically, Vietnam is booming. A combination of political stability and nourishing trade deals have helped make the southeast Asian country a bright spot in the region. Another driver of growth is Vietnam’s youthful population. The average age is 35 and over half of the people of around 95 million are below 34-years-old. But as the economy grows companies are becoming more discerning about who they hire. Added to that the pool of prospective candidates has evolved. Often, the aspiration for young people in Vietnam was to live and work overseas—in countries like America, the UK, and Australia. But increasingly, young Vietnamese are looking to study and work overseas but then return home to help develop their own communities.


    A broad range of skills

    “We no longer look for staff with a very specialised skill set. Instead, we’re looking for employees who have a broad range of applicable skills,” Alan Malcolm begins. Currently Pearson’s head of Asia, Alan has worked in the education sector for almost 20 years progressing from sales director for Japan six years ago to head of sales and marketing for Asia to his current post as regional head. He admits that “companies might need one or two specialists across the region,” but key to employability is “flexibility.”


    Alan is also seeing the need for skills like problem-solving and critical thinking. “People with those skills are the ones who are currently fulfilling the majority of the roles for us in Vietnam and across the region,” he explains. And active listening, particularly for sales teams, is more important than ever according to Alan. “Active listening—being able to show people that you’re listening to them—is really important, particularly in client-facing businesses. If you can show you’re engaged you’ll build a much deeper relationship,” Pearson’s head of Asia adds.

    Authentic Learning


    Beyond the CV

    For Huynh Thi Cao Thi, a well-written CV merely gives a candidate the chance for an interview. She is the human resources director of FPT Retail. The company employs over 4,000 staff in Vietnam at their retail stores where they sell a broad range of devices from laptops to mobile phones. In her role, Huynh Thi Cao Thi engages with two kinds of prospective employees: salespeople for their stores and administrative staff who support their sales teams.

    “Of course, a CV is still important, it’s the first thing we use to screen candidates but in an interview, I’m really looking for three things—self-confidence, good communication skills, and a positive attitude,” she explains.

    Another focus of the training programs developed by Huynh Thi Cao Thi is time management. “That’s the focus of one of the key courses our training centers deliver,” FPT Retail’s director of human resources explains. “Perhaps our staff have never been instructed in this before, but arranging their schedule and being able to meet deadlines is crucial,” she adds.


    Learn and relearn

    Learn and relearn

    Winnie Lam agrees. She also looks for good time management skills and flexibility in her team members but, she feels, it’s not just new hires and graduates who need to develop their skills. She thinks even experienced staff need a regular refresher. Winnie is the chief operating officer for Colliers International Vietnam. She has acted on the board of CanCham Vietnam, for the Canadian chamber of commerce, and for the Hong Kong Business Association in Vietnam, as well as being the director for the TMF Group and AB Horizon Vietnam.

    Winnie sees that a fixed skill set is liable to outdate a prospective candidate’s opportunities for success in the job market quicker than ever. “There are a lot of new titles and obviously lots of new functions that people are performing,” Winnie muses, “so even experienced people like me need to learn and relearn otherwise we won’t be able to access new positions simply because things are being done so differently.”

    Winnie has also noticed that her staff are less observant than before, perhaps because of their over-reliance on technology. “People are so focused on the screen they don’t realize what’s happening around them. There are times I want them to drop their devices and just be present and aware of what is happening,” she says.


    Colliers International Vietnam are also committed to training staff to develop their soft skills while encouraging self-study in hard skills. “We want our staff to seek out learning in hard skills themselves. But we actively train soft skills because I think our staff need a model that we can expose them to because they need to understand clearly what soft skills should look like,” Winnie Lam adds. “I think soft skills trump hard skills now and in the future,” she smiles finally. For more information on Future Skills please visit Skilling Up for 2020: A View from Asia.

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  • Keeping It Real: Philip Warwick’s Guide To Authenticity In The Classroom Part 2


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    Philip Warwick

    Definitions of authenticity agree that being authentic requires a measure of realness and a tangible sense that an experience is true. Increasingly, schools are focusing on authenticity as a key driver for learner motivation and improved outcomes. In fact, entire approaches like project-based learning have been built upon it. In part 1 of his guide to authenticity, Philip Warwick explored ways learning and teaching can be made more authentic. Here in part 2, he looks at the ways in which situations, materials, and tasks can be authentic too.

    Definitions of authenticity are quite consistent. While the Longman Dictionary says it’s “the quality of being real or true,” other resources define it as “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character” and “not false or an imitation.” Words like “true” and “real” suggest authenticity is something we should strive for as teachers—and we intuitively know our learners respond when we set them tasks that connect to what’s really happening in their world. Authenticity has become core to approaches like project-based learning, and for good reason.

    In his book “Work Rules” Google’s former Senior Vice President of People Operations Laszlo Bock credited many of the company’s innovations to giving staff the freedom to work on self-directed projects. It’s maybe no coincidence that during his time there Google were voted the best company to work for over 30 times around the world. Self-direction is a core component of authenticity—nothing feels more authentic than deciding for yourself what you want to do.

    Besides approaches like project-based learning, some schools are also offering periods of self-directed study. But in the more formal language classroom that may not be possible, or even applicable. Instead, we can consider how situations, materials, and tasks can help up the authenticity ante.


    Authentic situations

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    Having a communicative purpose isn’t a new concept in language teaching and learning. In fact, the communicative approach has been around since the 1970s. However, with the prominence of Pearson’s Global Scale of English, and the Common European Framework of Reference, there is a greater focus on what students can do in a language than ever before.

    Authentic situations can involve pairs or groups engaged in real-world tasks. Things like co-creating a survey or discussing which restaurant to eat in are authentic situations to place students in. But an authentic situation doesn’t necessarily need pairs or groups. Writing about a favorite food can be authentic if, for example, it’s framed as a social media post for Instagram—surveys suggest sixty-nine percent of millennial's take photos of their food before they eat and many of them are shared with a caption attached.

    Students can also be encouraged to use authentic language. That can mean focusing on high-frequency words—words students will actually hear often and need to use the most—and lexical chunks that have been identified as the most common collocations people really use. Groups of words like “you bet” or “hang on,” for example, are rarely taught but commonly deployed by English language speakers.

    Authentic situations


    Authentic materials

    Materials can be authentic (or inauthentic) too. Today, it’s unlikely students will ever have to write a letter. It’s also increasingly rare to send a postcard. So presenting these kinds of materials can feel inauthentic to a millennial student more used to communicating news about their holiday via messaging apps.

    Instead, students are more likely to connect to videos—like bite-sized vox pop interviews, or sharply edited travel shows. As the creation of content has been democratized, and anyone with an Internet connection and a camera can upload a video to YouTube, videos also provide more realistic examples of content students might want to replicate.

    Philip Warwick talking to the crowd

    The average length of a YouTube video is 4 minutes and 20 seconds. That seems to reflect a decline in our attention spans. In fact, recent surveys suggest there has been a dramatic shortening of our ability to pay attention. Attention spans have even been estimated at eight seconds in a recent Microsoft Corp. survey so the duration of digital content you deliver to your learners is also a factor to consider. Short “snackable” content is more likely to keep learners engaged.

    There’s also a growing belief in language schools that content can be a source of new knowledge and not just a resource that presents language in context. Approaches like CLIL have developed from that belief—that content can provide a double hit of language practice and new, useful information. So, authentic materials can also be the kinds of content that are academically or even personally enriching for students.


    Authentic tasks

    The idea of the need to equip students with 21st-century skills is well established. Globally, business leaders, academics, and governments are aligned that skills like communication, collaboration, creativity and thinking skills like critical thinking are essential for success socially and professionally both now and in the future.

    Authentic tasks

    Tasks that engage students in the “4Cs” will not only mirror what they do in the world, including in the workplace, but there is also strong evidence to suggest engaging in meaningful communication, creativity, collaboration, and higher-order thinking is also more motivating. Take a simple flashcard language drill for example. Students’ attention quickly drifts when they are asked to repeat language over and over—a lower-order thinking activity. Conversely, asking students to create a simple story that connects the same series of words produces far more positive results because they are asked to be creative, a higher-order thinking skill.

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    Pair work and group work have been core components of communicative classes for a long time. These activities also mirror the way people work in the real world. More and more professionals with different expertise and ideas are put together to produce results—whether digitally or physically—and so working with a partner or as part of a group is an authentic chance to prepare for life in the workplace. After all, competition makes us faster, but collaboration makes us better.

    Phil Warick presented at Pearson Day Vietnam. For more photos from the event please visit our Pearson Vietnam Facebook page. For more information on resources for your English classroom please visit us here.

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  • Keeping It Real: Philip Warwick’s Guide To Authenticity In The Classroom Part 1

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    The Longman Dictionary says authenticity is “the quality of being real or true.” But what does authenticity mean in the context of the language classroom? Here, in part 1, Philip Warwick explores authenticity from two different sides: authentic learning and authentic teaching.

    Definitions of authenticity are quite consistent. While the Longman Dictionary says it’s “the quality of being real or true,” other resources define it as “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character” and “not false or an imitation.” Words like “true” and “real” suggest authenticity is something we should strive for as teachers—and we intuitively know our learners respond when we set them tasks that connect to what’s really happening in their world. Authenticity has become core toapproaches like project-based learning, and for good reason.


    Students notice when theres a disconnect between what we ask them to do in the the classroom

    Authentic learning

    Students notice when there’s a disconnect between what we ask them to do in the classroom, and what they will have to do outside the classroom. Conversely, they respond positively to authenticity in what they’re learning—it provides an automatic impetus for engagement.

    Authentic learning, then, can involve having students engage with real-world problems. This might seem challenging at lower levels of language proficiency. However, voting for a favorite food, for example, has echoes of the real-life situation of negotiating with friends where to go for dinner, but with the language is pitched at a much lower level.

    Added to that, authentic learning can also involve authentic thinking. Instead of voting for a favorite, the class might evaluate the relative merits of each kind of food and put them in a list from their favorite to their least favorite. This higher-order thinking skill—evaluation—requires students to critically assess information, an ability which has been identified as one of the keys to success socially and professionally in the 21st century.

    Authentic Learning

    Metacognitive skills—thinking about thinking—are also processes students of all levels can engage in. Students can rank or review an activity or task, thinking about what was easy and what was hard about it. By identifying the challenging aspects of the activity or task students might approach similar activities or tasks differently in future. They might also seek support not only by asking their teacher for help; they might also ask other students to help too, and so there may also be a social and community element to this, which also feels authentic.

    Beyond the activity or task, students may be given some autonomy by directing their own learning. Using the idea of an activity around food again, they may ask to design a dream restaurant or create a recipe for an unusual dish. Nothing feels more authentic than choosing for yourself what you’d like to explore.


    Authentic teaching

    Students respond to teachers who are “real” too. That’s been reflected in drop-out rates in online courses. The completion rate for students enrolling in MOOCs (massive open online courses) like Coursera is said to be as low as just ten percent. The company argue that many people enrolling on the courses never intended to complete them anyway—they just wanted to dip into the content. However, many others connect the high drop-out rates with a lack of human connection. Learners need the sense of community that’s provided by a teacher and fellow students, and more and more online courses are trying to emulate the feeling of community students get in a face-to-face class.

    Authentic teaching

    But what else can teachers do to be authentic? One way is to relinquish the idea that we, as educators, can know everything about a topic whether it’s art, science, or the English language. The idea of “the sage on the stage” is outdated. A cursory Google search can reveal more knowledge about a topic than we could ever hope to amass. That means students also have easy access to the same wealth of information, and they can quickly check and verify anything their teacher tells them. Being “real” as a teacher means partnering with students on the learning journey, and accepting we don’t know everything—and we don’t need to anymore. Another simple way for teachers to keep it real is to engage emotionally with their class. That can include sharing personal information—as long as they feel comfortable doing so—and instilling a sense of genuine fun and enjoyment into teaching and learning. Positive emotions reflect...and so do negative ones.

    Once you share personal information, your students might share too building a deeper bond that can inspire them to learn more. And if students see you enjoying the time you have together, they should start to enjoy it too. One way you might do that is to share your love of words, like the word “rhythm,” for example, which is a two syllable word without any vowels in its written form; or how some words, like paper clip, do what they describe—a paper clip clips paper.


    Keeping it real in the classroom

    Authenticity, “the quality of being real or true,” can mean different things whether you’re a teacher or a student. Learners are always on the lookout for tasks and activities that feel real. That might mean they’re looking to be presented with real-world challenges, or they might want to be asked to think in the ways that they would need to think outside the classroom.

    Teachers can be “real” too. One of those ways is to let go of the idea that they need to know everything. That means embarking on a learning journey as a facilitator or activator—and even better if you are a facilitator or activator who’s open to sharing information about yourself, and who takes a playful approach to language and learning.

    Phil Warick presented at Pearson Day Vietnam. For more photos from the event please visit our Pearson Vietnam Facebook page. For more information on resources for your English classroom please visit us here.

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  • Making education more effective using reliable assessment methods

    Unmet Needs in Education, A Problem We Cannot Afford to Ignore

    How often is it that we, in our world, see sad cases of student failure in school or desperate but ineffective attempts of teachers in working on progress in certain students? Students repeat or fail a grade in school, teachers give excessive homework or assignments only to be forgotten or ignored, school leaders endlessly interview new candidates of educators but seeming to be never finding the right ones; these are all becoming more and more common scene in today’s education, although it does not make it less frustrating. What is happening?

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    Unmet needs in education is what is happening; and frankly, this is a problem we cannot afford to ignore. The common scene of failures in education does not help to create quality human resources for the world’s ever-growing demands. Unqualified human resources lead to poor life quality and weak community, and we do not want this to take place, let alone spread and get worse in a larger scope. We want, and we feel we have tried our best, to make sure we are shaping our children to be strong, smart, leading individuals in the future, but we keep facing the harsh reality of our day-to-day results. Students need a different kind of help and facilitation, educators need a different kind of insight and advice, school leaders need a different kind of method. These needs are simply unmet. At the same time, we know that there must be an underlying issue here, but often we just can not figure it out. Slowly, the vision of quality human resources in the future looks further and further distant. Blurry, sometimes.


    Assessing the Underlying Issue, Applying the Right Intervention for Each Individual Case, Identifying the Right People for the Right Place

    Identifying the right people for the right place

    In mainstream schools, up to 30% of students are estimated to be struggling with their school work and failing to achieve their full potential (Skues and Cunningham, 2011). This shows, first of all, that learning difficulties among our students are real and highly prevalent. As educators, we are often aware of the existence of a handful of visibly special students, who are in constant need of our intensive intervention; but what about so many others who just seem to always mispronounce the sound of certain letters or syllables, or misspell the same words over and over again, or cannot understand how multiplication works, or never remember the assignment instructions we have just explained? Similarly and secondly, teachers often find themselves failing and unhappy, less and less motivated for tomorrow’s workday. There is little, if any, motivational satisfaction in educating and school leaders experience either hiring people who only want to have a stable job or lack of good teachers. In all this, don’t we all agree that we need a reliable assessment instrument to find the underlying issue and apply the right intervention as well as identify the right people for the right place in education?

    Thankfully, Pearson addressed this very problem by developing and publishing standardised psychometric assessments and related interventions. In its event this year “Pearson Day 2018: What Makes A Learning Process Great?”, Anisa Zulfiqar, Business Development Manager, Asia, at Pearson Asia Pacific, presented a hands-on experience to scores of educators and school leaders using psychometric assessments. Psychometric assessments are a complete package. They measure and improve clients’ intelligence; attention, memory, and problem solving; aptitude or achievement; personality or psychopathology; feelings and emotions; values; attitudes; interests; motives and needs; language ability; and motor skills. In other words, we assess the underlying issue.

    Psychometric assessments

    For students, psychometric assessments will identify their learning challenges and difficulties, provide insights and recommendations for the right intervention by their teachers; while for school leaders, they will help recognize the right people for each position or place in the education job field. Besides these direct outputs, we can also expect more strategic and longer-term outcomes. When it becomes an ongoing process cycle of observation, monitoring, assessment, planning, implementation, and review, it is only logical to aim for lower rate of student failures in schools, improved learning performances because the learning difficulties are recognized and given the right intervention, and eventually, higher quality of human resources. Of course, one may question the reliability of these assessments, i.e. will they guarantee the right solution and targeted result achievement? However, while keeping in mind that there is no perfect predictor or guarantee to human problems, behaviors, and performance, using a range of the best and most relevant assessments do improve the odds of those reliability factors: having the right solution in hand and achieving the targeted results.

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    The Shape of Indonesia’s Future in Education

    Pearson Clinical and Talent Assessments and interventions can contribute to the shape of Indonesia’s future in education. As this country is speeding up in many areas, it certainly needs high quality human resources for current internal developments as well as facing the future external challenges internationally. With the right facilitation for each unique need of our children and by placing the right ones in the right place, Indonesia’s human resources can be unstoppable in the world arena. All these dreams are made possible starting today, with well-thought-of and innovative assessments in our education.

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  • Differentiated learning: supporting learning for students of all abilities

    Student learning can be influenced by a number of factors: gender, culture, disabilities, socio-economic status, comfort level, or a combination of the above. Finding a way to help each student in your classroom learn may be a challenge – but it’s not impossible.


    Celebrating all learners

    Some students excel at sports, others at language, or maths. Some come into the classroom with confidence, others bring learning anxiety. Many will be novice learners, while others will display academic excellence at every turn. This is not a new phenomenon – it’s common knowledge that students are different, as are their learning needs. This diversity in student learning should not just be tolerated, it should be celebrated.

    Differentiated instruction involves responding specifically – and with flexibility – to what students know. It involves changing the way the curriculum is presented to suit each student, rather than setting lessons in stone. It means providing multiple ways for pupils to learn new content, make sense of new ideas, and prove their understanding.


    A cross-section of an Aussie classroom

    Australia is home to more than 200 different languages and approximately one student in every four is learning English as an additional language (EAL). But the diversity doesn’t stop there. A recent national audit revealed that 19.4 percent of Australian students have a disability or learning difficulty. Students who have been diagnosed with dyslexia, ADHD, non-verbal learning disability (NLD), autism, language disorder or auditory processing difficulties are all represented by this statistic. It’s important to note that 65.9 percent of children with disabilities (aged 5-14) attend regular classes in mainstream schools. This means it’s common for all teachers, not just special education teachers, to encounter students with disabilities and language difficulties.

    In the last 10 years, there has also been an increase in primary school students presenting with high levels of anxiety. And let’s not forget our gifted learners – yet another group of students who require tailored tuition.

    This data shows that a typical Australian classroom must be able to accommodate a range of learning needs and abilities. Whether a student presents with a language disorder or has recently immigrated to the country, it falls to teachers to move each of their students forward in their learning. This is a huge responsibility – and no easy task. It’s one thing to believe in differentiated learning, but how does one deliver differentiated instruction?


    A classroom-based solution

    Differentiated teaching starts with getting to know your students – their prior knowledge, strengths, weaknesses, and abilities. Once you have this information, student needs can be incorporated during the lesson planning process.

    So how can you identify the areas where your students are struggling the most? Using an accurate and easy-to-use clinical assessment like WRAT-5 allows you to determine the academic level of your students. It can be used to assess and monitor reading, spelling, and math skills, and can help identify possible learning disorders. This type of early intervention allows for differentiated instruction to begin because once you know what your students know, you can tailor your pedagogy to their needs.

    Results from the first round of tests can be used as a benchmark for future testing, creating a way for you to measure each student’s progress. Tracking student learning will enable you to keep delivering differentiated instruction, and set you well on your way to improving learning for your students.

    This article is part of the Mind the Gap initiative that supports student wellbeing to improve learning outcomes. For more information about this topic, or any of the clinical assessments mentioned in this article, please feel free to contact Anisa Zulfiqar.

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  • Social & emotional learning: five key skills you can start teaching in your school

    Research is increasingly telling us that children and adolescents who learn social and emotional (SEL) skills achieve better academic development, physical health, and quality of life. 90 percent of educators believe that SEL skills directly benefit their students’ performance, and 80 percent of employers believe that SEL skills are extremely important to achieving success in the workplace.

    Learn about the five key skills you can start teaching, and how to implement an effective classroom system in your school.


    What is SEL?

    SEL is the process through which students acquire the knowledge and skills to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, empathise with others, cultivate positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. It provides a foundation for safe and positive learning, and teaches students resilience and life skills. A recent meta-analysis revealed that adoption of SEL programs led to a 22 percent increase in social and emotional skills, and an 11 percent increase in academic achievement.

    Separate studies have shown that having emotional and social skills can help increase the likelihood of high school graduation, readiness for postsecondary education, career success, positive relationships, and better mental health.

    Importance of social-emotional learning graph

    Setting students up for life: five key skills

    If we expect students to be ready for life after school, then classroom instruction must include the following social and emotional skills: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.

    Each social and emotional skill is listed in more detail below, along with an example of how it can be promoted in the classroom.



    the ability to identify your emotions and tie thoughts and feelings to behaviours, leading to an awareness of how your words and emotions impact other people.

    Reflective tasks like journaling allow students to see their impact on the world.

    the ability to self-motivate, have self-control, and regulate your emotions.

    Breathing exercises, taking a break, and counting to five are tools that can help a student deal with strong emotions or learning anxiety.

    Social awareness:
    learning to embrace diversity and empathise.

    Role-play a social justice issue, or conflicts that arise in the playground, like bullying.

    Relationship skills:
    the ability to work cooperatively with other people to handle challenges and resolve conflict.

    Project-based group work can help students learn to compromise and work cooperatively together.

    Responsible decision-making:
    the capacity to consider the wellbeing of self and others, and ability to evaluate the consequences of various behaviours and actions.

    Ask students to debate an issue, or make pros and cons lists to help them listen to, and respect, others’ ideas.

    The importance of Response to Intervention (RTI)

    RTI is a multi-tiered framework that can help identify students with learning difficulties and provide evidence‐based early intervention. A student's response to instruction and intervention allows you to recognise which tier and level of intervention is appropriate for the student. Students in tier 1 and 2 respond well to general classroom instruction, and may only need smaller group intervention to help them catch up to their peers.

    Importance of social-emotional learning graph

    RTI also aims to identify the students in tier 3, usually 5% of the class, who are struggling the most as they lag behind their peers by more than 12 months. Students in this tier usually go through tier 1 and 2 without making major progress, and will therefore require a referral to an allied health professional for intensive, individualised intervention.

    This framework can also be used to identify students who have social, emotional, or behavioural difficulties, as well as academic difficulties. In this way, the RTI model can be helpful for improving learning of academic skills and social and emotional skills.


    The Social Skills Improvement System – Social-Emotional Learning (SSIS-SEL) Edition

    The good news is that social emotional learning skills can be taught and continuously improved using in-class assessment and intervention tool like SSIS-SEL. This assessment is based on the RTI model and provides evidence-based tools to screen, assess, and intervene for each of the five key emotional skills. The program can be used as a preventative framework for students who present minor to mid-range difficulties in tiers 1 and 2, and it can also be applied as a more comprehensive intervention tool for struggling students in tier 3. SSIS-SEL is a flexible clinical tool, it can be applied either as a classwide program, or as a targeted solution in smaller groups of students.

    SSIS-SEL is the only system that incorporates key academic skill areas, allowing you to assess the same skills that you teach. Using this system, you can support the development of social and emotional skills in each of your students.

    The screening assessment takes approximately 5 to 10 minutes to complete, the full assessment takes approximately 15 to 20 minutes to complete, and the intervention modules take up to half an hour to complete.

    Importance of social-emotional learning graph


    This article is part of the Mind the Gap initiative, aimed at supporting student wellbeing to improve learning outcomes. For more information about supporting your special education or classroom teachers with effective assessment tools like SSIS-SEL, please feel free to contact Anisa Zulfiqar.

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  • Intellectual disability or language disorder?

    When a child has difficulty with language, it might also be assumed that they have an intellectual disability. But not all children who have trouble expressing or understanding spoken and written language will be diagnosed with an intellectual disability.

    Read on to learn more about the difference between intellectual disabilities and language disorders, and what you can do if you suspect a child needs professional help.

    Neurodevelopmental disorders are often noticed in the early years, from birth to five years. These disorders frequently co-exist. For example, children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have an intellectual disability, and many children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also have a specific learning disorder. Communication disorders include language disorder, speech sound disorder, social (pragmatic) communication disorder, and childhood-onset fluency disorder (stuttering) (DSM-5, 2013).


    What is an intellectual disability?

    When compared to their peers, children with an intellectual disability have greater difficulty learning new things, understanding concepts, solving problems, concentrating, and remembering.

    Many health professionals won’t officially diagnose very young children with an intellectual disability, preferring to wait and see if a child is simply a late bloomer.

    However, there can be some early warning signs:

    • Slow to sit, crawl, or walk
    • Delayed talking
    • Poor attention
    • Limited planning or problem-solving abilities (e.g. a child may be unable to play in a constructive way with toy building blocks)
    • Difficulty with understanding rules and instructions
    • Behavioural and social problems
    • Trouble with self-care tasks such as getting dressed, toileting, and feeding themselves

    It’s important to note that all children develop at different rates, some may start out slower but catch up as they get older - this doesn’t necessarily mean they have an intellectual disability. However, if you’re worried about how a child’s skills are developing, it’s best to have them assessed by a professional sooner, rather than later.


    What is a language disorder?

    A child who experiences difficulty finding the right words or speaking in clear sentences may be diagnosed with a language disorder. You might notice that they’re having trouble putting their thoughts into words, or perhaps having trouble following conversations with their peers.

    It’s important to also note that a language disorder is different from a speech disorder or a hearing impairment. Children with language disorders generally don’t have trouble hearing or pronouncing words. Their struggle is related to understanding and applying the rules of language - like using the correct grammar, and speaking in well-formed sentences. “Children with SLI [specific language impairment] may be intelligent and healthy in all regards except in the difficulty they have with language. They may, in fact, be extraordinarily bright and have high nonverbal IQs,” writes Margaret Ervin in The ASHA Leader.

    There are two main types of language disorders, ranging from mild to moderate or severe.

    1. Expressive language disorder: Having difficulties explaining, thinking, or expressing needs. Young children may have trouble with:

    • Asking questions
    • Naming objects
    • Using gestures
    • Putting words together into sentences
    • Learning songs and rhymes
    • Using correct pronouns, like "he" or "they"
    • Knowing how to start a conversation and keep it going (Source:

    2. Receptive language disorder: Having difficulties understanding language or meaning. Young children may have trouble with:

    • Understanding what gestures mean
    • Following directions
    • Answering questions
    • Identifying objects and pictures
    • Taking turns when talking with others (Source:


    I think a child might have language difficulties, what do I do?

    If you’re concerned that a child may be experiencing language difficulties, we recommend that a referral is made (with parental approval) to the school's learning support team.

    Parents and teachers will be invited to complete a checklist on the child’s development and learning abilities. The learning support teacher might also complete an initial language screening test using the CELF-5A&NZ Screener – a quick 15-minute test that accurately screens the child's oral and social language skills. The test results will recommend whether further investigation is required, in which case the child might be referred to a speech language pathologist, and/or a psychologist.

    These professionals may work together to determine if the child is simply a late bloomer, or if they have a language disorder and/or an intellectual disability. Both professionals play an important role:

    • A speech language pathologist assesses a child’s speech and language skills with standardised tests such as the CELF-5A&NZ
    • A psychologist measures IQ, including nonverbal intelligence and adaptive behaviour, for example, is the child able to toilet, dress, or feed him/herself independently. The psychologist can obtain an overall idea of the child’s intellectual abilities with tests such as the WISC-VA&NZ and Vineland-3.


    What’s next after diagnosis?

    If a child is diagnosed with a language disorder, a speech language pathologist can offer intervention strategies and support for parents and teachers to assist the child in the learning and social environments.

    Prevention strategies are key – the earlier a child's difficulties are identified, the greater their chance of improvement. If there are any concerns with a child's development and learning it is best to discuss these with your child's teacher; alternatively you can contact a speech language pathologist in your area.

    This article is part of the Mind the Gap initiative that supports student wellbeing to improve learning outcomes. For more information about this topic, or any of the clinical assessments mentioned in this article, please feel free to contact Anisa Zulfiqar.

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  • Are Teachers The Key To Vietnam’s Transformation?

    Fast changes are happening to Vietnam’s “tiger cub” economy. As the country transforms itself into one of the most dynamic in the world, the government is aiming to drive innovation with major revisions to its national curriculum. But will outdated teaching methodologies check the country’s chances of reaching its full potential?

    Leading Innovation, Not Following

    “Things in this part of the world move very fast,” Ms. Nguyen Phuong Lan warns, “We are not talking about Vietnam as simply a follower of technology anymore, but as a leader.” Lan is the Chairwoman for EMG. Established in 2005 in Hanoi and expanding to Vietnam’s southern business hub of Ho Chi Minh City in 2010, the company have become a leading education provider in the dynamic Southeast Asian country. One of Vietnam’s first private education companies, EMG agreed to a wide-ranging partnership with Pearson last year that includes implementing the education company’s English proficiency assessments, international examinations and vocational qualifications.

    “The Vietnamese people are quick to notice trends. You can see that in our engagement with technologies like blockchain,” Mr. Vu Hai Long, Director of FPT’s Greenwich Collaboration College, part of the FPT Corporation, concurs. The two education specialists were in Da Nang, in February, at Pearson’s invitation to talk about how education can support Vietnam’s economic growth at the company’s “The Future Of Learning” conference.

    Mr. Vu Hai Long has seen the project to upskill Vietnam’s millennial generation bear fruit first-hand. “Fifteen years ago, FPT Software faced genuine difficulty finding the right people—there was a real skills shortage. We decided to invest in education primarily to help support our own business, but our focus on learning has meant young Vietnamese have been able to achieve success here while also entering the international job market,” Mr. Vu Hai Long adds.

    FPT is the largest IT company in Vietnam with over 10,000 software engineers and the corporation also run FPT University that currently has campuses in Hanoi, Danang, and Ho Chi Minh City. Added to that FPT Greenwich Collaboration College offers courses under the supervision of the University of Greenwich which gives their students the opportunity to receive a world-class undergraduate education at an affordable cost.

    Forward-thinking Curriculum Changes

    However, despite FPT’s successes, question marks have arisen over the effectiveness of Vietnam’s higher education system. Many feel that Vietnam’s university programmes are producing some of the best trained graduates in the region, but also some of the worst. The Ministry of Education and Training’s Deputy Nguyen Minh Hien suggested the blame lay with teaching standards at elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels.

    “Looking back at my education, we were taught the book,” Ms. Nguyen Phuong Lan elaborates about Vietnam’s pedagogical approach, “Today, in Vietnam, I do think the government recognizes that from K-12 we don’t want to box in our young generation. They think the curriculum should support our children’s growth and help them to achieve their full potential,” she adds about the prospective changes to the lives of the 1.8 million students in Hanoi and 1.6 million in Ho Chi Minh City who currently access kindergartens, schools, and high schools—besides many more nationwide.

    There does seem to be genuine government-level interest in using the national curriculum to further develop Vietnam’s school-age generation in readiness for the 21st century job market. According to Vietnam News, the revised curriculum “could very well shatter the typical image of Vietnamese schools as places where students learn the same things and have the same ideas.”

    The flexible competency-based curriculum, although still in its draft form, aims to offer a mix of traditional subjects such as maths, literature, foreign languages, geography, history, chemistry, biology, and computer science, with new subjects that focus on developing creativity and the cognitive and behavioral skills that will help graduates find and thrive in their jobs.

    “The government now is forward-thinking and they recognize the need to examine the impact of the curriculum on the learners. The major changes will be to focus on STEM and interdisciplinary learning, and they will also look to promote innovation and creative skills,” EMG’s Chairwoman, Ms. Nguyen Phuong Lan, adds. “This also presents huge opportunities for publishers, as there will be widespread revisions to materials.”

    “It’s not going to be easy”

    However, originally scheduled for implementation in 2018, the curriculum is now likely to be introduced for the 2019-20 academic year. Besides worries over spiraling costs, behind the delays are further concerns about the abilities of the existing cohort of teachers to adapt to these significant changes—The Dean of Hanoi National University of Education suggested that in Vietnam as many as 90% of all teachers’ skills are substandard.

    Allied to the need for better trained teachers is a perceived requirement to move away from teachers preparing students for national exams, which often precludes the opportunity to develop soft skills. As one senior specialist reviewing the plans for the World Bank predicted: “It’s not going to be easy. The previous curriculum that was launched in 2001 with a similar idea failed because we didn’t have enough of the elements required, most importantly, competent teachers.”

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