A child born today will be 11 years old at the start of the year 2000. How will his educational experience differ from that of today's sixth-grader?

A new study on the future of technology in education, sponsored by the Chicago-based Society For Visual Education Inc. (VE), predicts that computer literacy will be important at an earlier age than at present.Ninety percent of the education experts who responded to the study said students would need to have mastered basic computer skills by the sixth grade. Seventy percent of the study participants felt that at least one half of all teachers would be actively using computers in the classroom by the mid-1990s.

Classrooms will be filled with computers, they foresee. Advanced computer software and interactive videos will provide simulations of real-life situations and rills designed to strengthen critical thinking abilities.

With the increasing availability of VCRs, laser discs and CDs, special interest courses and advanced work in a subject will be made easily accessible to smaller groups of students.

While stressing the importance of computers for the future of education, the study raised the concern that some schools cannot afford computer and video hardware and software, and that this problem may contribute to a new illiteracy - a subclasss of technological "have-nots."

A lack of training in the use of new technology, according to the study, may lead to serious, negative impact on career opportunities for high school graduates.

The results of the study also indicate changes in the classroom curriculum. According to the study, by the year 2000, the three R's could be replaced by the four C's: communication, comprehension, coping and critical thinking.

Although reading, writing and arithmetic will remain important school subjects, the study predicts that the emphasis on learning will shift from subject-specific to skill-specific as classrooms across the country reflect the impact of new technology.

"The study concluded that finding, understanding and using information productively will require much more than just learning to read, write or do simple math," said SVE president Suzanne T. Isaacs. "The four C's are going to be vital to survival and success in a more sophisticated future."

Added one respondent, a school library media specialist from Nebraska, "Teachers must help students acquire skills, values and knowledge to deal with the community of the future. Society will become increasingly dependent on all types of technology, and students must be prepared to manage and control it."

The study, "Preparing Schools for the Year 2000," was sponsored by SVE, a major producer of audio-visual and software materials for schools, in cooperation with the Association for Childhood Education International.

The 78 educators who participated included classroom teachers, school media specialists, college faculty members, state-level school administrators and representatives of national education associations.

The yearlong study consisted of three rounds of questionnaires, the second and third of which were built on information derived in the previous rounds.

"The response we received did not indicate a radical change in the education system," Isaacs said. "Teachers and books will not become obsolete in the decade ahead, but the impact of new technology, as envisioned by the study particpants, will challenge the assumption of everyone concerned with educational planning."