A summary of insights for credentialing from the ETS Human Progress Report


A summary of insights for credentialing from the ETS Human Progress Report

Lisa O'Leary, VP, Assessment Solutions


Based on responses from over 17,000 people across 17 countries, the ETS Human Progress Report explores the changing landscape of education and career pathways. This Report provides invaluable insights for credentialing organizations about the views and perspectives of people globally. Including the shift from linear trajectories through school and work to more dynamic journeys of lifelong learning.

The headline of the report is the continuing need for lifelong skills acquisition and measurement, while stressing the importance of ensuring equitable opportunities for people through this time of extreme change. The results of the ETS survey reveal most individuals are keen to acquire the skills needed for the future, but there are still practical barriers for many.

This blog provides a summary for credentialing organizations of the opportunities and key areas for action revealed in the Report.

Value of lifelong learning

It is significant that 88% of global respondents feel continuous learning is essential to succeed in today’s society. This reflects the fact that in these times of uncertainty, learning offers people security, financial stability and a future – as well as fulfilment and well-being. So much so that 86% of respondents agree continuous learning is essential to well-being.

This positivity about continuous learning is combined with some pessimism about the current state of education. For higher education, 43% of global respondents are either pessimistic or very pessimistic about the state of learning in their country. But 64% of global respondents agree that learning / education will be in a better state by 2035.

People aren’t just placing a priority on continuous learning, they are expecting and seeking it. There is a real opportunity here for testing organizations to offer relevant and up-to-date credentials that extend beyond traditional education.

What’s more, the survey revealed most people worldwide agree, “being a lifetime learner is core to my identity”. With those in middle-income countries, such as India and China, particularly feeling learning is core to who they are. i There is potential here for testing programs to expand globally and reach a wider market.

Differences in access to education

It is unfortunate that alongside this enthusiasm for learning, the Report also reveals significant global differences when it comes to access to education. Designed to establish an annual baseline, the ETS Human Progress Index is a gauge of global advancement. In addition to broad global disparities, the Index reveals women, older generations (Boomers and Gen X) and individuals who are unemployed or in rural areas report more difficulty in accessing quality education.

Not surprisingly, the top barrier to people gaining access to education is financial (57%), with socioeconomic background (32%) and a limited number of qualified teachers (31%) coming in second and third.

This offers insights to testing organizations about potential markets for growth, and areas where our industry might offer important support to close the gap in access to assessment. There is a role for credentialing providers to find and implement solutions that overcome these challenges. For example, test delivery options that are accessible across test centers, online proctoring, and multi-modal testing, with pricing adjusted by region.

Upskilling is the future

In the context of pessimism and barriers to traditional education, the Report brings the importance and value of upskilling to the fore. When asked whether more jobs in the future will require new skills people don’t currently have, 86% of global respondents agree. And 75% of respondents feel their current skills may become outdated as technology and industries evolve.

People see tests and assessments as having an important part to play in finding solutions to this skills gap. When asked if learning assessments can help individuals achieve better job opportunities and career advancement, 85% of global respondents agree. And 82% also agree learning assessments can bridge the skills gap to provide equal opportunity for advancement across different backgrounds such as socioeconomic, race, and gender.

For 84% of global respondents, learning assessments provide valuable opportunities for advancement. And like the survey findings related to education, middle-income countries are more likely to believe upskilling and reskilling are very important, with China and India leading the way.

Again, much like education, the ETS Human Progress Index reveals women, older generations and individuals who are unemployed or in rural areas have more difficulty in accessing upskilling and reskilling opportunities. With respondents reporting the most prominent obstacle is lack of financial resources, followed by unclear personal rewards.

This points to an opportunity for testing organizations to provide accessible credentials that close the skills gap, offer career advancement opportunities – and more. Currently, 84% of global respondents agree learning assessments play a significant role in enhancing self-esteem, as well as overall career satisfaction. But it is also a reminder of the need to clarify the benefits of a credential and standardize rewards, with solutions such as verified credentialing.

The opportunity to provide solutions to upskilling and reskilling challenges is further emphasized in the Report, which shows people are seeking guidance from corporations (49%), as well as the government (48%) and educational institutions (57%), to progress the ability to learn new skills.

Read our guide on how to market to your test takers.

Need for modern assessments

As well as a recognition of the need to upskill and reskill, and the role of assessments in meeting this need, there is an emerging but significant interest in micro-credentialing. With 78% of global respondents believing evidence of new skill acquisition will be as valued as a university degree by 2035. Importantly, 85% of respondents also advocate for measurements that go beyond cognitive to include social and emotional skills.

While it bodes well for the future of our industry that people see the benefits of assessments and feel positive about them, test taker expectations are changing – and increasing. When they are investing time, effort and money, people expect more from testing. With 87% of global respondents believing learning assessments should provide ongoing feedback, these findings underscore a collective desire for tests that do more than provide a single-point snapshot.

Insights from the Report point to a collective belief that innovative assessments have the potential to be instrumental in unlocking personal and societal prosperity, bridging skills gaps, and providing equal opportunities for advancement across diverse backgrounds. However, if we are to deliver the solutions that are needed, we must continue to adapt and innovate to meet changing needs.

AI as disruptor and facilitator

It’s clear there is a need to re-evaluate vital skills for the future. At the same time, Artificial Intelligence also promises more tailored and personalized learning to develop those skills. Perhaps surprisingly, the Report shows trust in AI-driven assessments is strong. This points to a future where AI-driven tests and guidance are both accepted and mainstream.

A substantial 78% of global respondents agree AI has the potential to enhance learning assessments by tailoring them specifically to individual needs. With 72% of global respondents agreeing they would trust AI-generated guidance for improving skills, and 66% indicating trust in a learning assessment created or scored by AI.

There is still some caution around AI, however. Despite the optimism, 71% of global respondents acknowledge it also has the potential to negatively impact learning assessments due to unintentional biases and programming flaws.

The Report reveals great potential in the use of AI to advance testing, but we must proceed with caution and complete transparency about how and when we are using it. Always ensuring human oversight where test outcomes have the potential to significantly impact an individual’s future – whether this is in test content creation or secure test delivery.

Listen to our Tried and Tested podcast on the topic of AI in assessment.

Continuous learning + Fair assessment = Human progress

The ETS 2024 Human Progress Report offers a wealth of intelligence and insights for testing organizations. Its findings reveal a clear shift from traditional education pathways to a world where certifications, micro and other credentials offer – and hold – increasing value. Lifelong learners are the global majority and while there are challenges in meeting their evolving needs, the testing industry is well positioned to address them.