Updated: August 4, 2021 10:53:19 am
Technology is significantly transforming the way important aspects of our life function. As innovations abound and the world experiences the fourth industrial revolution, the field of education is facing new fundamental questions. What can the education sector learn from technological innovations in other industries? Are we enabling the students of today – the workforce of tomorrow – with the right skills to meet the challenges that they are likely to face? What more can be done to develop the competencies required for a workforce of the future?
The pandemic has accelerated the hybrid model of education by years and effectively demonstrated the various benefits of a new model. According to UNESCO data, over 1.5 billion learners – 90 per cent of the student population on the planet – in over 190 countries were impacted by school closures in the early days of the pandemic. School closures forced a rapid shift to remote and virtual learning in many educational systems, and this is expected to continue beyond the pandemic. Adverse weather events, social unrest, or new public health risks may occur at any time.
As a variety of face-to-face, remote, and blended-learning environments continue to evolve, the need for built-in, long-term, durable systems is clear. Hybrid models are a welcome step towards greater access, flexibility, robustness, and equity; but education systems must always be ready for learning to take place anywhere and prepare students to take on the challenges of the future.
The reality of the new job market
The technology revolution has accelerated the need for newer skill sets. The future workforce will include humans, machines, and algorithms, working together to finish tasks and meet common goals. Repetitive and routine functions are already being handed over to machines and software so that humans can focus on value-added tasks. The dependence on cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence (AI) is increasing manifold and so is the demand for skilled personnel adept at working with these technologies.
According to a World Economic Forum report on the Future of Jobs (WEF), while 85 million jobs may be displaced by 2025, the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms will simultaneously lead to the emergence of 97 million new jobs.
As the roles of humans and machines evolve, companies will redefine how work is done and reimagine the workplace to maximize efficiencies in increasingly hybrid work environments. According to 800 CEOs polled by McKinsey, the acceleration of digitization, automation, remote work, and related developments through the pandemic will lead to a disruptive phase of workplace transformation. These trends will further impact the creation of new roles, working and hiring models, and skilling needs.
Skilling the new workforce
Students need to be prepared to weather the uncertainties presented by changes in the workforce with versatile and applicable skill sets. As industry requirements shift, employers, governments, and citizens are demanding education systems to equip students for the future through the use of technology.
As per the National Education Policy 2020, the creation of an autonomous body – the National Educational Technology Forum – will provide a platform for the free exchange of ideas on an appropriate integration of technology into all levels of education, such as learning, assessment, planning, and administration. The framework takes a technology-supported, skills-based approach to inspire teachers and learners to reach their full potential, empowering them to build applicable skills anywhere, and equipping them to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world.
A robust education framework must place technology at the centre of building advanced learning skills. Technology should both enhance and transform what and how students learn to maximize learning outcomes. The Intel Skills for Innovation Framework, for instance, promotes skill-based learning in response to the growing demand for a technological transformation in education.
For decision-makers and educators, any such framework will require tools that support the development and implementation of a vision for enriching the curriculum and designing the learning environment to meet skill-building goals. For students, having the right technology tools will help them analyse, evaluate, and innovate, enabling the development of skills for future careers. As a real-life example, many schools are beginning to include AI as a subject of study, empowering students with the skills they need to innovate meaningful applications of this new-age technology.
Mechanics of the new model
Education systems have long viewed technology simply as a delivery system for content. However, the struggles of the pandemic have shown us that the use of technology must evolve to provide for future skills development that can be delivered anywhere.
It is helpful to keep a few key concepts in mind as education planners create a vision and define strategies to get there. The first is the ability to adapt. A future-oriented strategy replaces short-term remedies with long-term ambitions in educational planning. The goal is to plan for the future and not only for a future pandemic. The second related concept is robustness. Technology resources must be simple to find and use, adaptable to a wide range of workloads and learning styles, and provide reliable, secure access to learning resources that help students develop skills for the future.
Given the intensive curriculum many education systems already face, adding an emphasis on future skills development requires a holistic transformation of learning methodologies. Policymakers, school leaders, educators, and students will all see their practices evolve as we re-engineer hybrid learning models to make the best use of technology for education and technology in education to create a future-ready generation.
(The author is VP & MD – Sales, Marketing & Communications Group, Intel India)