There has never been a better time to make our education systems, both here and around the world, smarter. School and higher education systems are straining under budget cuts. The demand for knowledge workers with specialized skills is growing by 11 percent a year. Many jobs will require lifelong training and a continuous updating of skills. And the education industry has grown increasingly complex and difficult to quantify, as students pursue a variety of alternative learning paths.
One of the challenges is that our education systems need to be more, well, systemic. In the U.S., there are 15,000 individual school districts and over 4,000 higher education institutions, most with their own goals and management processes. In China, there are nearly 500,000 primary and middle schools, many responsible for managing their own infrastructures. These redundancies have created tremendous inefficiencies, ballooning costs and silos of resources.
The good news is that there have been advances in education technology—cloud computing, open source systems, virtualization, analytics—that can help our education systems refresh outdated infrastructures with new functionality. They can become more interconnected, instrumented and intelligent. In a word, smarter. And it is already happening.