Global Survey Reveals Major Shift in Education Toward Do-It-Yourself Learning

91% of Canadian learners say people need to keep learning or re-training throughout their career to stay-up-to-date.

TORONTO, Ontario (SEPTEMBER 17, 2019) — Pearson, the world’s learning company, today released the results of its Global Learner Survey, a new study capturing the voice of learners worldwide, including Canada. The findings point to massive global transformation in education driven by the shifting economic landscape of the new talent economy, the vast influence of technology and perceptions that education systems are out of step with learners. 

The study shows that learners around the world are now taking control of their education through a “do-it-yourself” (DIY) mindset, adding to their formal education with a mix of self-teaching, short courses and online learning to keep pace with the talent economy. The survey also shows that learners are thinking beyond the traditional notions of learning, signaling a massive opportunity for education providers to reinvent learning to meet the needs of a new economy. 

Pearson conducted the study with The Harris Poll to give learners in 19 countries the opportunity to voice their opinions on primary, secondary and higher education; careers and the future of work; and technology. More than 11,000 people, ranging in age from 16 to 70, participated in the poll. The survey is the most comprehensive and wide ranging global public opinion survey of learners to date. In addition, Pearson released today Opportunity for Higher Education in the Era of the Talent Economy, a guide to the survey’s implications and opportunities for higher education.  

“Gig jobs, unconventional careers, tech disruption and lifelong learning have ushered in the talent economy. Now more than ever, learners understand the need for lifelong education,” said Marlene Olsavsky, Managing Director of Pearson Canada. “People are meeting the demands of this new world of work by taking control of their own learning. Now, technology and innovation are giving educators, governments and companies the greatest opportunity in human history to rise to the occasion and improve lives through education.”

The Global Learner Survey’s top Canadian findings include: 

  • A DIY mindset is reshaping education: People are layering on to their traditional education by mixing and matching what works and what they can afford to get trained up for the new economy. Globally, 81% of people say that learning will become more self-service as people get older. When they have to retrain for work, 35% of learners in Canada self-taught using internet resources. When asked what learning methods they prefer when upskilling, about 52% of learners in Canada cited professional short courses or online tools.
  • In the next decade digital and virtual learning will be the new normal. 79% of Canadians believe that smart devices and apps will be used to help learners. Globally, 76% of people believe that college students will be taking online courses within 10 years and 67% believe more primary and secondary students will too. 67% of Canadians believe that print textbooks will be obsolete in five years. Nearly 68% of Canadians believe that AI will have a positive impact on education. 
  • Lifelong learning is not just a philosophy, it’s the new reality: Globally, there is wide agreement that people need to keep learning throughout their career to stay up-to-date in their careers. 91% of Canadians embrace lifelong learning, believing that learning doesn’t stop at school. That belief rises to 96% of people in China and 94% of people in South Africa. 73% of Canadians like to reinvent themselves by learning new skills, and 48%% intend to “retire” the traditional concept of retirement by pursuing a second career or part time job, starting a business or taking classes. 
  • Learners in Canada have their own concerns: 74% of people in the Canada say social media has made the school environment more difficult for students, while less than half say it actually improves learning. 43% of those in Canada would rethink their higher education decision and get vocational training or go straight to work. About 42% of Canadians felt higher education didn’t prepare them for their chosen career. 
  • Confidence in education systems is wavering in many parts of the world. Unlike other parts of the world, only 45% of Canadians say education systems are failing the current generation. However, 64% of Canadians believe college is getting more out of reach for the average student and 55% of Canadians don’t believe their education systems are teaching the right skills for today’s jobs.
  • Gen Z thinks you can be successful without a traditional university education. Despite statistics showing a higher lifetime earnings with a university degree, about 45% of Gen Z learners in Canada think you can do “ok” in life without it. Globally, 68% of learners think you can do just as well with an education from a college, vocational or trade school.  
  • China, India, Brazil and Hispano America are outpacing North America in the upskilling race and defining a new global economy.  More than anywhere else in the world, people in China, Brazil, India and Hispano American believe education is driving the global economy. More than two-thirds of learners in these countries have been looking to re-skill in the past two years, compared to only 25% of Canadians, 31% of Americans and 24% of British learners. Workers who do upskill are enrolling in short courses, taking courses offered by their employers or professional associations, degree programs or are self-teaching. 
  • Soft skills have an advantage over automation: While STEM skills aren’t forgotten, many also realize that uniquely human skills will give them the edge over machines and that they are very hard to learn. Globally, 78% of people say they need to do more to develop soft skills like critical thinking, problem solving and creativity, while 85% of Americans and 91% of Chinese believe universities need to increase their focus on teaching these skills in preparation for the job market.

To view the full findings of the Global Learner Survey and Opportunity for Higher Education in the Era of the Talent Economy visit:

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