IEIC 2016 # 4: Education for the coming 4th Industrial Revolution:
Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum in his book ‘ The fourth Industrial Revolution’ launched at the Davis 2016 drew attention to the possibility that we have just transcended the 3rd Industrial Revolution into the beginnings of the fourth Industrial Revolution. To recap, he puts 1784 as the year of the first Industrial revolution driven by steam, and 1870 as the second Industrial revolution driven by electricity. He places at 1969 the onset of the 3rd Industrial revolution driven by electronics, computers and automation. He doesn’t give a date to its beginning, but I propose the coming 5 years, the second half of the second decade of the 21st century as the period over which the 4th Industrial revolution takes place. There has to be a ‘ paradigm shift’ in the education in terms of knowledge, skills and dispositions to flourish and thrive in the 4th Industrial revolution driven by …..
India benefitted from the establishment of the IITs in the 1960s ( the first set of B.Tech graduates from IIT Kanpur came out in 1965) and its products were ready to benefit from the 3rd Industrial revolution. IIT Kanpur benefitted from the KIAP program supported by a consortium of nine US universities (namely M.I.T, University of California, Berkeley, California Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Carnegie Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, Ohio State University, Case Institute of Technology and Purdue University) helped set up IIT Kanpur’s research laboratories and academic programmes.
The IIT Delhi benefitted from UK collaboration, the IIT at Madras from German and the IIT Bombay was supported by the USSR.
Well before the beginnings of 2nd Industrial revolution, in 1847 the Thomason College of Engineering ( named after the then lieutenant Governor ) by the British, and was perhaps the first Engineering College in Asia. It was given University status in 1949, thus becoming the first Engineering University of Independent India and an IIT status in 2001.
For preparing for the 4th Industrial revolution the big shift in the educational model is to a community driven life-long learning approach, freed from the clutches of Government hyper-regulation that is stifling and the single most important factor in our not having benefitted enough during the 3rd Industrial revolution.
The ‘ old mind-set’ is stuck with the following assumptions, which were perhaps true at some point of time ( pre-Internet age) but are not true today and in fact there has been a paradigm shift which they refuse to acknowledge.
These are :
Knowledge is scarce, and we need to bring that precious ( because of its scarcity) knowledge only to deserving students ( hence limited seats)
Teachers are scarce, and we need to bring the students to the teacher in very small teacher:student ratios; hence the highly competitive nature of admission tests
All education needs to be standardized, and controlled by the Regulators ( read Government)
The recent advances in technology based pedagogy of self-learning ( auto-didacticism, flipped learning, mastery learning, social learning and personalisation of the learning experience coupled with the potential of Big Data and learning analytics have left the traditional formal system way behind like the ‘ Bade Bhai Saheb’ in Premchand’s story with the same name.
But the future is about providing everyone who wants to learn with an opportunity to learn, at affordable costs, and MOOCs have amply demonstrated that.
An initiative that will help our youth become tinkerers and makers is the launch of a large number of rainbow clubs, an idea that has been detailed in a post dated September 11, 2015 in this blog.
If we want to achieve the new goals , especially Goal 4 to ‘ ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all’ set out in the UN resolution of 25th September 2015( http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N15/291/89/PDF/N1529189.pdf?OpenElement ) then there is no option but to give the highest priority and thrust to technology empowered ODL by whatever name called and use it to meet the targets for 2030.
We have already invested significantly in EdTech Infrastructure and Institutions to support this, and we now need to spell out the ‘ calls for action’.
The first thing is to create a R&D centre for Technology enabled learning, where we draw upon the research already done elsewhere and through a ‘ learning observatory’ share that with practitioners to improve their teaching-learning practices.
The second thing is to develop educational tools and products to support handheld learning with Tablets and mobiles, and new learning experiences with Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and holographics. For this purpose an Educational Apps development centre, an educational VR development initiative for Oculus Rift and Google cardboard or Samsung Gear needs to be supported. A similar development project for Microsoft Hololens which will bring Augmented Reality for vocational and skill training on a massive scale. These will provide a clear cut leadership to this model over the next 5 years, and would help India take a global leadership position with reverse innovation in education.
The third is to develop and share new protocols for personalisation, mastery and social learning. Social learning transforms the large number of learners into an asset rather than a liability, because Metcalfe’s law becomes applicable. This is akin to how the much feared ‘population bomb’ transformed into a ‘demographic dividend’ over the last decades.
The tools to access learning are already in the hands of the prospective learners, as mobile phone penetration is already very large and will be enhanced by the ‘ Digital India’ initiative.
We recently ran a few cohorts ( with a total number of about 500) for a course on ‘ Diabetic Awareness’ entirely on whatsApp and it clearly demonstrated the potential of this tool for life-long learning of Goal 4 in the recent UN resolution. It is emerging that a blended learning model with a boot camp to give the big picture of the course, have the members of the learning cohort meet in person with others as well as the teaching team, and then disperse to receive future content through a course website and interact with the group on whatsApp. Occasional meet-ups may be organised at the request of a significant proportion of the group. The size of the learning cohort also increases from the traditional 20 or so to 100, the limit of the WhatsApp group size which is also near the Dunbar number for the size of a fruitful and meaningful interaction.
This technology availability allows the possibilities of ‘Independent educators’ fully qualified but choosing not to work as salaried employee but offer their courses entirely through the Internet on handheld devices. This idea was developed several years back and is posted as another blog dated December 28th 2012 in this site.
So a combination of MOOCs run on platforms such as edX or WiziQ for massive dissemination of information and whatsApp groups for interactive social learning are clearly good tools to solve the challenges of numbers, quality, relevance and costs.
All the elements are in place. We need to take up the challenges, lead by example, develop capacities and empower both the educators as well as the learners, thereby strengthening the Institutions also.
A well co-ordinated plan of action can really accelerate the pace of educational reforms. And as a corollary the pace of economic reforms in a ‘ knowledge economy ‘
A talk that I gave at an earlier event arguing that universal higher education at ‘affordable’ costs is now quite doable, and the only bottleneck is of the Government granting it ‘legitimacy’ is available at : http://youtu.be/_5SVlehdM4s