Education for the 4th Industrial Age:
This is probably the most important issue before the entire world today. Attention was drawn to it at the WEF meeting in January 2016, by Professor Klaus Schwab, where he traced the history of the 3 previous Industrial Revolutions and drew attention to the fourth one taking shape.
In November 2015, our Bharat Ratna had declared that 90% of our Universities have outdated curricula, a statement that has not been contested by any of the agencies such as the UGC, AICTE, NAAC..responsible for regulating Higher Education.
In March 2016, the Department of Science and Technology released a vision document for the year 2035, and the section on education begins with the following lines:
” Schools, colleges and Universities as currently constituted will be redundant in 2035. Instead we will have Institutions of learning that are virtual/meta/open in character.
So, let’s get back to understanding the why of the above statements.
Quoting from Klaus Schwab “The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, are unlimited. And these possibilities will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing.”
The challenges and opportunities for humans living in such a world are unprecedented.
Our experience of the 3 earlier Industrial Ages creates thought barriers that prevent us from being ready for the future.
The metaphor often adopted by our leadership is of the Nawabs portrayed by Prem Chand in the famous ‘ Shatranj Ke Khilari’.
When dealing with impending danger, another model is that of the Ostrich and the Giraffe. Folklore has it that Ostriches bury their heads in the ground ( the truth is that they lie down as flat as can be ) and hope that the danger will pass. The giraffe on the other hand stretches out its neck further to observe the scene and then tales a decision whether to fight or take flight. So while adopting the Giraffe strategy, I augment it with Isaac Newton’s strategy of ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ of thought leaders such as Ken Robinson, Guy Claxton, Clayton Christensen, Richard Feynman, Ravindranath Tagore, Eric Hanushek, Klaus Schwab and organisations such WEF, OECD, Brookings Institute, Edge Foundation, Young Foundation….
And the earliest traditions of Socratic questioning that is similar to the Indian tradition of questioning, arguing and conversations as illustrated by the Yaksha Prashna or the Janak Yagyavalka Samvad.
What one can safely conclude is that we are undergoing a ‘ phase transition’ with emergence of new fields such as ‘synthetic biology’ and sometimes described with book titles such as ‘ business at the speed of thought’ or ‘life at the speed of light’. And these are some of the trends:
Megatrends in Technology :
1: Big Data
3: Machine Intelligence
4: The Internet of Things
5: Digital Manufacturing or 3 D Printing
The 5 important Skills :
1: Computational Thinking for Complex Problem Solving
2: Creative Thinking
3: Critical Thinking
4: Cognitive Flexibility
5: Judgement and Decision Making
Attitude / Attributes/ Character
The present education system has its roots in religious preaching ( perhaps indoctrination) with the basic ‘sage on the stage’ operational model suitably evolved with the 3 industrial revolutions to an efficient and productive factory model, suppressing creativity and developing conformity and obeisance to authority.
But the 4th Industrial revolution that we are witnessing is driven by exponential developments and the fusion between the physical world of atoms ( and energy) , digital the world of bits ( and qubits) and the biological world of genes ( and neurons).
In responding to the challenges of 4th Industrial Revolution, and to benefit from the new opportunities that it will give rise to the following 5 stake-holders have to work in cohesion.
Firstly the Governments, both National and State. They can create MOOC Universities to fulfil the need of increasing the GER in higher education and universal school education.
Secondly, in present times, Businesses have an important role to play, in complementing the role of Statutory Universities and other Institutions. They can take the lead in adopting new age technologies such as mobile phones, cloud computing, big data, Blockchain, artificial intelligence and VR & AR to provide experience and training skills for today and tomorrow. I have coined a generic phrase ” Mobile learning Diversity” to reflect diverse courses, learners, modes of certifications and they can be rapidly created by innovators and technology leaders.
Thirdly, it is individuals who have a very important role. But there are 3 categories of individuals, who can collaborate to create a winning team. Beginning with teachers, who have to transform from servants of their masters to becoming Independent Educators ( TeacherPreneurs) asserting themselves as professionally as lawyers, doctors or management consultants.
The fourth category of individuals who have to play a very important role in this endeavour, are the parents. Most parents are still caught up in the world of their childhood, and fail to accept the new trends and realities.
And finally the most important is the learner. We have to transform the reluctant and passive learner who has to be forced to go to School and attend at least 75% of classes that are held, to an enthusiastic active self-directed learner with intrinsic curiosity and motivation to learn new things rapidly, the UberSmart Autonomous Self-directed life-long learner, who can negotiate MOOCs, OERs and other learning resources to construct and acquire the learning that is needed, rather than that prescribed by a regulatory authority.
The 5 pronged strategy to succeed in the 4th Industrial Age is the MOOC University ( to be steered by Central or State Governments), the MOLD ( Mobile Learning Diversity), the TeacherPreneur, the SmartParent and the most important the UberSmart Autonomous Self-directed life-long Learner.