Metacognition, lifelong learning

 Metacognition, lifelong learning and understanding other cultures are needed
to adapt to a changing environment
Metacognition refers to the skills of “thinking about thinking”. Metacognition can be
understood as “non-routine analytical skills” in which awareness of one’s own learning and
thought processes leads to the intentional application of specific learning techniques to
different situations (Bialik and Fadel, 2018[14]; Berger and Frey, 2015[13]). Learning
strategies, or “learning to learning”, are also widely seen as a key competency for lifelong
learning, and are emphasised as a goal for education in many European countries (Kikas
and Jõgi, 2016[22]).
Metacognitive skills are vital to education because of their impact on the process of learning
(Veenman, Kok and Blöte, 2005[23]). For instance, metacognition significantly predicts
critical thinking,

 a key component of learning (Magno, 2010[24]). Components of
metacognition become increasingly important as children enter secondary school, where
reasoning, regulation and reflection become more integral to the curriculum.
A proliferation of mindfulness-based interventions in schools specifically targets these
skills. Preliminary findings show that these interventions can reduce stress and anxiety,
increase optimism, help improve social and cognitive skills, and raise academic
achievement (Schonert-Reichl et al., 2015[25]; Schonert-Reichl and Lawlor, 2010[26];
Beauchemin, Hutchins and Patterson, 2008[27]).
As trends such as globalisation and advances in artificial intelligence change the demands
of the labour market and the skills needed for workers to succeed, people need to rely even
more on their ability to “learn to learn” throughout their life.

 The OECD Skills Outlook
2017 (OECD, 2017[28]) reports that “workers’ cognitive skills and readiness to learn play a
fundamental role in international integration, as workers need them to share and assimilate
new knowledge, allowing countries to participate and grow in evolving markets”.
Given the hyper connectivity of today’s – and tomorrow’s – world, another key area of
cognitive development is the knowledge and understanding of other cultures.
Some developmental scientists (Eccles and Gootman, 2002[29]) identify in-depth
knowledge of more than one culture as crucial to cognitive development, particularly as
young people mature. 

8 │
OECD Future of Education and Skills 2030 Concept Note © OECD 2019
Humans are likely to be able to handle uncertainty better than AI
Humans can cope with uncertainty through their actions, by developing their beliefs and
understanding of what is happening in the world, and through their ability to discard beliefs
when they are inaccurate or damaging. In other words, humans navigate through
uncertainty by being adaptable learners. When placed in a novel circumstance – such as
a new country, new school or new workplace – people learn the new structure in the
environment and adapt or replace old structures or beliefs that are no longer relevant.
Machines are not (yet) able to respond to uncertainty. AI can complete specific tasks
efficiently, and respond effectively to complexity and to some characteristics of
uncertainty, but if the goals and context of the task are ambiguous or change, then
a “breakdown” often occurs. Put simply, humans possess the capacities to deal with
volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity but sometimes fail to do so productively,
while, in many cases, machines lack those capacities entirely (Laukkonen, Biddell and
Gallagher, 2018[30]).
Students’ digital skills need to evolve with technological developments
As digital technologies are adopted in the workplace, acquiring and maintaining a set of
digital skills is becoming increasingly important for the vast majority of workers.
The OECD also foresees employment in ICT industries increasing as advances in “smartgrid” technology reshapes the management of energy systems, infrastructure and
transportation. According to the European Commission, the demand for workers with
specialist digital skills is already growing by about 4% each year (Berger and Frey,
As the workplace continues to undergo substantial restructuring in response to new
technologies, many digital skills will rapidly become outdated. For example, coding skills
tend to become obsolete in only a few years’ time. According to a study by the European
Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, 16% of workers in Finland, Germany,
Hungary and the Netherlands saw their skills become obsolete over the previous two years;
digital and ICT-related skills were identified as particularly vulnerable to rapid
obsolescence (Cedefop, 2012[31]).
Thus, to remain competitive, workers will need to acquire new skills continually, which
requires flexibility, a positive attitude towards lifelong learning and curiosity.
While ICT specialists will be needed, a combination of skillsets that makes workers
adaptable to technological change will be even more important. Therefore, education
should focus on imparting “fusion skills” – the combination of creative, entrepreneurial and
technical skills that enable workers to shift into new occupations as they emerge (Berger
and Frey, 2015[13]). Box 1 (next page) provides an overview of new and emerging jobs.
│ 9
OECD Future of Education and Skills 2030 Concept Note © OECD 2019
Box 1. Examples of new and emerging jobs
Occupation Description Examples of skills Examples of
Example of attitudes
and values
Research, design, develop or test robotic
Critical thinking,
complex problem
solving, qualitycontrol analysis
Engineering and
technology, robotics,
Biostatisticians Develop and apply biostatistical theory and
methods to the study of life sciences
Inductive reasoning,
oral expression,
Mathematics, English
language, education
and training
Design, evaluate, modify or construct fuelcell components or systems for
transportation, stationary or portable
Judgement and
decision making,
writing, critical
Physics, mathematics,
Focus, reliability,
Solar sales
and assessors
Contact new or existing customers to
determine their solar equipment needs,
suggest systems or equipment or estimate
Active listening,
persuasion, social
Sales and marketing,
engineering and
technology, customer
and personal service
Accountability, focus,
results orientation
Video game
Design core features of video games; specify
innovative game and role-play mechanics,
story lines, and character biographies; create
and maintain design documentation;

and collaborate with production staff to
produce games as designed
critical thinking,
complex problem
communications and
media, psychology
playfulness, passion
Source: O*NET ( in (Berger and Frey, 2015[13])
Social and emotional skills are increasingly recognised as essential
Workers whose jobs require social and emotional skills are unlikely to be
replaced by technology
As discussed above, AI is unlikely to replace workers whose jobs require creativity;
similarly, AI is unlikely to replace workers who jobs require complex social interactions.
Thus, in order to adapt to advances in technology, workers will also have to acquire social
skills, including persuasion and negotiation (Berger and Frey, 2015[13]).
There is a danger that the increasing reliance on sophisticated machines will lead some
people to devalue others; some scholars (Turkle, 2017[32]) are convinced this devaluation
is already occurring. If these scholars are right, then it will be increasingly important for
people to learn how to recognise the value of their own humanity, and that of others
(Putnam, 2000[33]). Valuing the contributions that people make to society is necessary not
only for individual and societal well-being, but also for the health and relevance of
institutions (Berkowitz and Miller, 2018[16]).

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