Global Learner Survey 2020

Australian learners see COVID-19 as a major turning point for modern education.


Seventy-eight per cent of Australian learners say the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed education as we know it, according to a study released in Australia today.

Pearson, the world's learning company, released the results of a global learner survey of more than 7,000 learners, revealing learners' perceptions around education and the impact of COVID-19 on the space globally and locally. Those findings appear in the second annual Global Learner Survey, which captures the opinions and views of learners worldwide.

The survey shows learners believe it’s unlikely there will be a return to the pre-COVID world of entirely full-time in-person work and learning. As they come to terms with this new reality, learners want schools and governments to address inequality in the learning experience, and desire digital skills they believe they will need to thrive in the new economy.

Pearson conducted the study during the pandemic with Harris Insights & Analytics, giving learners in seven countries the opportunity to voice their opinions on primary, secondary and higher education and careers and the future of work. The poll surveyed more than 7,000 people globally, ranging in age from 16 to 70, including more than 1,000 Australian learners. Now in its second year, Pearson’s Global Learner Survey is the most comprehensive global public opinion survey of its kind.

“Australian school, tertiary and adult learners, along with their global counterparts, are encountering unique challenges in their education in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s crucial we hear their perspectives on learning in the world today,” said David Barnett, Managing Director for Pearson APAC.

“Their voices are added pressure on institutions who are already facing financial and societal pressure during the pandemic.

“Government funding remains tight. Long, expensive degrees are losing relevance and education is becoming more demand driven and tied to employability than ever before.

“This pandemic is also highlighting that significant inequalities in education are a major concern for Australian learners.

“But with these constraints comes creativity. We are working with many schools, universities and vocational institutions who are coming up with innovative ways to attract, engage and, progress learners, both online and in the classroom.”


The Global Learner Survey’s top findings for Australian learners included:

  1. A belief that COVID-19 is revolutionising education and work. 78% of Australian learners agree that primary and secondary education will fundamentally change because of the COVID-19 pandemic and 88% agree that online learning will be a part of children's education experience. This is even more pronounced in the Higher Education space with 90% of respondents believing online learning will be a part of the university experience and 80% agreeing that universities will fundamentally change because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 80% state the COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed the way people work and 82% agree more people will work remotely on a permanent basis.

  2. A desire to see education systems do more to address inequality. Australian learners are concerned of the impact COVID-9 will have on worsening inequalities in education. 83% state that online learning will increase the inequality for those who can't access or afford technology and 85% agree that he COVID-19 pandemic has made the digital divide more obvious. Learners believe this inequality needs to be addressed with 90% saying it will be important for schools to do more to address economic and digital inequalities among students. Australian learners placed additional technology for underserved learners as the top priority for government spending in public schools. 73% believe fewer people will be able to afford a university education as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  3. Continued value placed in further education, but perceptions are shifting. Only 9% of learners would go straight to work after leaving high school or secondary education if they were to make the choice again. 76% of Australian learners believe a degree or certificate from a vocational college or trade school is more likely to result in a good job with career prospects than a university degree this has grown from 68% in 2019. Australians also want their further education to better serve them for future careers, 91% believe that universities should do more to work with businesses to make learning relevant to a future career.

  4. A desire for digital skills and skills for the workplace taught in secondary and higher education. 93% of Australian learners want skills for the workplace taught in secondary schools and 92% want an increase in digital skills taught. Increasingly Australians feel universities aren’t teaching the right skills for today’s job market growing from 58% in 2019 to 67% in 2020. Whereas, in primary school's learners want a stronger focus on fundamentals and some digital literacy over career or further education preparation.

    Discover more about the Global learner survey