Teachers who are currently forty-five years of age will still be teaching in 2035 aged sixty-eight. At least those who make it will. This makes it highly relevant to ask what teaching will be like when they finally limp over the retirement finish line.
The Spoof contacted futurologist James Randi, and asked him.
"The teaching profession was remarkably resistant to change for centuries," said Randi. "They were respected, well paid, knowledgeable and trusted. This system produced such greats as Isaac Newton, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Alan Turing and Winston Churchill."
According to Randi, this started to change during the equality movement of the sixties and beyond.
"At some point, somebody decided that we could have more people like Newton or Turing if we improved education for everybody," said Randi. "In the past fifty years teaching has been changing toward this laudable end. In the past twenty years we have seen a desire to measure how well they are doing, with the introduction of standardised curricula, standard exams, measurement indicators. Additionally, there has been a need to keep abreast of technology."
Children in schools twenty-years ago were shown a computer in a glass case and told not to touch because it was too expensive to let grubby little hands touch it. Technology has moved on, and now everything is becoming computerised.
This is where Randi sees the biggest change.
"Technology will continue to infiltrate schools," said Randi "When I was at Eton there was a blackboard. Now they have gone the way of the dodo and the lightly armoured armadillo. Electronic whiteboards are the medium of necessity in schools today. Plans are drawn up on computers, records and measures are stored on computers. These are all disparate systems, and it currently very hard work for teachers to record, monitor, plan and teach. With each new advance or good idea, there is more work given to teachers. Extra records to monitor, more monitors to record."
Randi believes that this area, at least, will become easier.
"We see it in many areas of industry, from health to call centres," Randi said. "There is an initial period of hurt as all these extra overheads increase the burden. Slowly, it becomes integrated. We will see automated curriculum software linking into monitoring software, keeping tabs on pupils abilities, pushing them just enough and recording the outcomes. All automatically."
There is a downside to this move toward technology.
"Schools will have to employ less and less teachers," said Randi. "As the teachers are staying on for longer and longer with the ever extending line to retirement, there is less money available for new teachers. Pretty soon, there will be an ageing teacher population, trying to come to grips with technology that is beyond them now. How will they cope? Imagine your grandmother contemplating setting up a home wireless network. Now imagine her maintaining a class of fifty kids when the technology makes a mistake..."
That is only the technology side of the equation. An increasing aspect of teaching is social work and psychology, and this will continue to expand.
"Kids are getting more difficult," said Randi. "Where they are hard to control now, in twenty years, they will be impossible. In some regards they will be smarter than the teachers, and in others they will be incredibly dumb. How can we expect a sixty-eight year old to keep up with a thirteen year old jacked into the world wide web?"
How does Randi suggest that this grey event horizon is avoided?
"Teachers should retire at fifty," he said.