The lure of further education in a prestigious institution or for that matter any institution was the foundation on which dreams were built. This obviously was tied to eventually securing a great job leading to fulfilling all the dreams one has.
However, the world is evolving faster than our educational institutions are able to keep up with the pace of change. The pace of change, especially when it comes to new technologies, means a lot of skills are shrinking fast. One no longer expects to be in a job for life anymore.
The essential, in-demand skills of the future will be very different from what has been taught in the past. Thus, what we teach has to dramatically change. How we teach must also change to reflect the rapid digitization that is taking place across all industries, not just education.
I would like to think that we can tackle this in a more refined manner, whereby it is simplistic and yet proactive.
Reimagining what we teach
In its Schools of the Future paper, the World Economic Forum outlined essential characteristics that will address key learning in the future. These included:
- Global citizenship skills (including awareness of the wider world, and sustainability).
- Innovation and creativity skills (including problem-solving and analytical thinking).
- Technology skills (including data science and programming, which I believe should be offered as a language option as standard).
- Interpersonal skills (including emotional intelligence, empathy, cooperation, and social awareness).
As automation increases more and more in the workplace, our inherently human social and emotional skills will become the key differentiator in the workplaces of the future. It would also be essential to add the following list of skills:
- Ethics – as an example, AI ethicist is a job title that’s beginning to gain traction as more companies look to deploy AI ethically.
- Diversity (cultural diversity and diversity of thinking) – This could be a significant game changer for the future.
Rethinking how we teach it
Education as we know it has really not evolved from when it first began around the industrial revolution. It still follows the same formulaic approach where a lecturer talks in front of an audience.
The critical affront is not directed at teachers and lecturers. As a trainer, I am constantly pressured to adapt to ways that take me out of my comfort zone and force me to continuously evolve and take on skillsets that are required to address the needs of the learners today and in the future.
I think the teachers of the future will be more a facilitator than someone who delivers a set curriculum. The things that will drive this change are:
- Learning online with digitization – this is an agenda that has been accelerated by the pandemic
- Self-paced learning which is personalized – this is where the pace is set by the student and is driven by their schedule
- More collaborative, project-based, and problem-based learning – which prepares people for the workplace that requires such skills and characteristics
- More learning in smaller doses – given the attention span decreasing, learning needs to be a lot more focussed in a very short period of time to enable it to match the generation that thrives on instant gratification
- Learning via immersive technologies – harnessing technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality to bring topics to life and cater to the digital generation
By far one of the best outcomes that came from the pandemic was the aspect of challenging the status quo and disrupting ‘the normal’. It is quite sad that it takes adversity to push us out of our comfort zone. Nevertheless, it is also disheartening to see organizations still resorting to the old normal.
If I am to predict the future, what hopefully will happen in my lifetime – it is that:
- Examination boards will cease to exist – competition will be replaced with collaboration. Thus, the focus of education will be to help individuals that the collective is more powerful than being individualistic. This does not in any way take away the aspect of competitive innovation. In fact, it allows for focused and collaborative innovation.
The way business is being conducted today means that organizations will cease to be all-encompassing wherein they will do away with having all systems and processes under one roof. So, the aspect of competition will become more of a service partnership.
- Universities in their current setup will be defunct. After all, we are preparing children in the current Universities for problems that are not problems as yet, using technologies that have yet to be invented, and teaching them using technical data that will probably be outdated by the time they complete their education.
Thus, the universities of the future will be ones where the teachers will play the role of coaches, mentors, and facilitators who will help young minds connect with each other, wherein most of the learning will be self-driven and realistically learn from each other. Curriculums will combine technical skills coupled with soft skills to enable the future generation to use technology ethically, complying with norms that have yet to be thought of, in environments that are yet to be imagined.
The unfortunate paradox is that we are preparing for a future that is already here – thus fighting a battle for normality when it is no longer an option that is on the table. Are you sitting at the right table?
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