May 19, 2024

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

The History of how the Academic Sector has Transformed Over the Years

5 min read
a student learning at his computer

The academic field not only aims to develop individuals but to keep them abreast of future developments shaping the world. And to achieve this objective effectively, the industry has to evolve too. As the famous American philosopher John Dewey aptly said, if today’s students are taught in the same way that students were yesterday, they are robbed of tomorrow. 

New Era Advancements

The academic sector has continued to transform substantially over the years. Especially in the last two decades, an extensive array of improvements have been witnessed in the way schools, colleges, and universities carry out relevant academic activities. Technology advancements are not only integrated into teaching methods or visible across learning management systems. Now, new degrees based on emerging fields are being offered while the curriculums of existing programs are also being updated constantly. 

Undoubtedly, technology has played a commendable role in redefining the education sector. For instance, eLearning has made it convenient for employed individuals to earn academic credentials alongside professional commitments. Aspirants belonging to any field can pursue higher education prospects through online learning, whether they belong to healthcare, social science, management sciences, or disaster management field. If you possess a bachelor’s in disaster management, for instance, you can easily enroll in an online masters degree in disaster management and continue your studies without compromising employment prospects.  

Today, the academic sphere has drastically transformed from what it used to be, thanks to several advancements, such as technology. 

Now, let’s take a detailed look at how this sector has transformed from what it was in the olden days:

The Early 20th century 

First, it is important to note that ever since the Industrial Revolution began, mining has been a prominent industry. And for many decades, owing to the demand for rapid extraction of raw materials, children of all ages were sent to mines. Low-income families considered this necessary because they needed an extra breadwinner. 

However, during the early 20th century, countries worldwide began banning children from the workforce. Around this time, when child labor became illegal, the trend of admitting kids to schools grew. Children could start their formal education and consider entering respectable professions in later years rather than only mining. 

This process of making child labor illegal was completed across the U.S. in 1917 when Mississippi became the final state to pass the mandatory education law. Under these rules, every child in every town needed to attend school up to a certain age, and it became criminal to put the kids to work before they had completed appropriate education. So, this was the first major evolution in the academic sector. 

1958 – The National Defense Education Act

On 4th October 1957, Russia launched the first artificial satellite into orbit. It was called the Sputnik I. While it was a significant milestone for all humanity, in the U.S., it was taken as a sign that the local education system was falling behind specifically in terms of subjects, including science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Subsequently, the National Defense Education Act was passed in 1958, which gave additional funding to schools to improve their focus on STEM-related fields and subjects. 

1972 – Equal education for all

As absurd as it may sound today, there was a time when female students had limited access to education and school resources. However, that changed with the Title IX ruling in the U.S. 

It prohibited discrimination in the education system allowing all genders to receive equal education and become proportionately active contributors to society. 

2009 – Common Core

Common Core was implemented to address some of the issues that No Child Left Behind, an act passed in 2001 that created federal-assigned grading standards, caused for schools. Instead of conforming to federal standards, states can now set their requirements for the abilities that kids should possess according to Common Core. Furthermore, the Common Core does not use standardized testing to hold instructors responsible for their student’s academic performance.

2013 – 2019 – Focusing on what matters

During this five-year span, much emphasis on the U.S. education system fell on evolving avenues. For instance, the Next Generation Science Standards created a framework for STEM education in schools that were K-12 so that students could pursue better quality academic learning in their respective fields. All these standards were supported by recent research to be as effective as possible. In 2019, a focus on outdoor learning and physical activity grew, with Washington becoming the first state to license outdoor preschools. 

2020 – The year of COVID

COVID-19 has been one of the most defining times for education, as it was for almost every other field. Although online education was already becoming a trend, COVID-19 and the subsequent shutdown of physical operations meant that all classes had to be held virtually. That’s where most schools took their academic processes online, and none have looked back. Today, virtual or hybrid education is a norm that every leading institution follows, with millions of students now availing the highest quality of learning from anywhere in the world without any limitations. 

The Future Trends in Education

The academic sector is evolving even today, and two prominent trends have emerged in the field that are worth mentioning. These include:

Re-evaluating what is being taught

The future of education is no longer about the skills that are being taught today. Today’s students will eventually graduate and join jobs that don’t exist yet. Leading fields in this regard include global citizenship skills, where the onus is on sustainability and awareness of global conditions, creativity and innovation skills, technology-based capabilities, and soft skills like communication, diversity, ethics, and presentation. Therefore, these are the areas that schools of tomorrow are focusing on. 

Redefining how subjects are being taught

Teaching practices and strategies are being changed to impart the knowledge and abilities required to thrive in the twenty-first century. In particular, rather than delivering content, teachers in the future will act as facilitators. Therefore, the academic sector is also gravitating this way by introducing more digitized content and online-centric learning, personalized, individually paced, and carefully-curated educational experiences, and collaborative and project-based learning opportunities, to name a few. 


The transformation of the education sector has been extensive, and the field continues to transform as the years go by. As the primary objective of academics is to prepare individuals for the professional world, that is what institutions today are focusing on.