The high road to future readiness:

The high road to future readiness: 

We are in a world facing a number of challenges cropping up before us with less than adequate response time before the next one crops up. The climate change crisis, the learning crisis and now the coronavirus pandemic. These and other smaller crises may need a new approach towards dealing with them. In an earlier blog, I had drawn attention to dealing with complex problems using first principles. 

We are now seeing symptoms and evidence of the possibility of our expected demographic dividend turning into a demographic nightmare. Apart from its implications for the economic impact at the national level, it will also have a very serious impact on the happiness of the elderly, if they don’t find their children adequately equipped for the future.

I am not dealing with any specific challenge here, but rather a broad approach to learning and education for future readiness. The underlying assumption is that a properly educated person and such communities of well educated people are in a better position to meet the challenges of the unknown than the poorly educated or uneducated ones. And the road to such an education is a tough and challenging road. I use the phrase ‘ the high road’ to describe this.

In the last decades I have often seen the shaming and mocking of high academic learning as of not much practical use ( and in some quarters with suggestions of even closing higher education institutions and sending their members off to villages) followed by a massive cry for employable- skill based education. Please view this 15 minute video video of a few years ago to appreciate the folly of this approach. Humans need not apply :

When you ‘take the high road’ – it means doing the right thing even if its not popular or easy. I am not quite sure what would be the opposite course of action. Perhaps let them have the gutter. In the long run it is better to take  the high road ! I wouldn’t bicker about ditch or gutter as the alternative. 

Taking the high road is often difficult, because so many people in the dumps think that they are right. Imagine a parent of a child at School whom you try to persuade not to go for tuitions, or Byju or Extramarks or worse try to advise against going to School altogether and explore home-schooling. 

Robert Frost extolled the virtues of pursuing ‘ the road not taken’ in a poem more than a hundred years ago. We can guess that he was referring to the high road because it was the one less travelled. One of the advantages of taking the high road is that it is less crowded. The high road need not be completely lonely, as there are others who also like to take it.

I like to refer to the story of the IITs as an example. Engineering education was in place well before the creation of IITs in the 1960s. From the College of Engineering Guindy established in 1794, Thomason College of Engineering that was established in 1847, to JNTU College of Engineering in 1946, there were about  27 engineering colleges even before independence, But IITs transformed engineers who worked with slide rules to those who were problem solvers with cognitive flexibility using computers of the day and today some of them are leaders today in the Silicon Valley of trillion dollar companies. 

I recall in conversations with  my senior faculty colleagues at IIT Kanpur, that it’s founder Prof PK Kelkar was often scoffed and ridiculed by his peers at other engineering Institutions for adopting a different approach to the traditional engineering education. But the IIT Kanpur and other IITs continued with their ‘high road’ and ended up preparing their students for the coming 3rd Industrial Age.

We now have to take the high road for readiness for the 4th Industrial Age. 

To make it easier for some more people to take the first few steps on the  high road to future readiness, I have developed a six month mentoring program for the motivated and determined. 

It consists of 3 stages:

The first stage is of one month (4 weeks)  duration that is the initiation or the on boarding stage. During the first week we deal with anticipating the future, the 2nd week is about life as information processing, the 3rd week is a survey of emerging technologies and the 4th week is about learning. 

The second stage which lasts for the next 3 months (12 weeks) we cover the top 10 skills listed by the World Economic Forum as in demand for 2020 and beyond, as well as Computational Thinking and First Principles. During these 3 months we also offer Graded digital learning :whose goal is to enhance the digital learning attention span from 1 minute to 90 minutes (over a 3 month period). 

The last 2 months are about taking charge and preparing a personal action plan.

Setting out some more details of the 3 different stages: 

Stage 1: Setting the stage: ( one month/4 weeks) 

Week1: Anticipating the future: 

  •  The VUCA ( volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous)  future; Finding your element; Ikigai; The future of work; Mental models

Week 2: Life as information processing 

  • From Knowledge is power to living as information processing ;Diet; Physical Fitness; Financial acumen; Health Literacy

Week 3: About Technologies 

  • MegaTrends in emerging Technologies; Making Sense of Artificial Intelligence ; Blockchain; Internet of Things; Quantum Technologies

Week 4: About Learning

  • Awakening the learner within; What is worth learning?;Mastery Learning;Becoming a self-directed lifelong learner; Intelligence as Developing Foresight

Second Stage : Digging in : Success skills for 2020 and beyond (3 months/12 weeks) 

While pursuing the development of these much needed skills  they will also pursue a program on ‘progressive digital learning’ for 3 months delivered concurrently. 

Doing large amounts of extensive reading at suitable levels of understanding is a productive tool to increase reading rate, vocabulary, motivation, attitude and general language proficiency. The amount of vocabulary and grammar learners has determines their language proficiency. Extensive reading enables learners to attain competencies in language skills. Graded readers are essential materials for doing extensive reading. They are particularly designed to enable learners practice reading skills and provide an opportunity to reinforce known vocabulary. Through multiple exposures learners become familiar with grammatical structures and vocabulary. Moreover, learners experience how they function in texts and they are motivated to use the vocabulary and structures they have learnt in their communication. Graded readers motivate learners, help them gain reading fluency, enhance their vocabulary and grammar knowledge development.

The broad schematics is as follows: 

First month: from one minute to 5 minutes

Second month: from 5 minutes to 10 minutes

Third month: from 10 to 20 minutes, onwards to a 90 minute WhatsApp course

During this 3 months duration, learners will engage with different media types ranging from text, images, audio and videos. For those who like to estimate the total time taken in this learning journey, it would be between 25 to 30 hours, depending upon the pace of the learner. The rate of learning will be slow at first, and then increase. 

The text will cover a variety of forms, as follows : Essays, Poems, Stories, Excerpts from literature, biographies and autobiographies , thoughts on current matters and overall language improvement. For short content, there will be much use of “ mnemonics” that are useful learning devices, proverbs, parables and inspirational quotes. Throughout the journey, there will be information about and links to further interesting knowledge nuggets. 

During this graded learning journey, the learners also will view the following five TED/ TEDx talks in the11th week: 

Bill Gates: Mosquitos, malaria and education

Steve Jobs: How to live before you die

Ken Robinson : Bring on the learning revolution :

Guy Claxton: Building Learning Power :

MM Pant: Education for the 4th Industrial Age :

This journey of graded digital learning begins with a few 1 minute learning nuggets, and in a period of about 3 months, it culminates with 5 WhatsApp talks in the following topics during the 12th week.

WhaT01: Learning first, AI and Quantum next

WhaT02: Why learn Quantum Mechanics at School?

WhaT03: Avoiding Natural Stupidity 

WhaT04: Ideas- their creation and spread

WhaT05: Inspiring humans

An incidental purpose of this learning experience is to inform learners of the wide canvas of human knowledge, that is often ignored in the focus on prescribed text-books and the exams that follow. 

The full details of the graded digital learning program is available at : Link to this post :

The 12 skills listed below include the top 10 skills listed by the World Economic Forum as important for the year 2020 and beyond, but we have added two more important general skills of Computational Thinking and Thinking from first principles. These collectively will develop the skill of thinking clearly, and enhance situational awareness. 

  • Complex Problem Solving
  • Critical Thunking 
  • Creative Thinking
  • People Management
  • Co-ordinating with others
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Judgement and Decision making
  • Negotiation
  • Service Orientation
  • Cognitive Flexibility
  • Computational Thinking
  • First Principles

Third stage : 2 months ( 8 weeks) 

Taking charge : 

  • Awaken the entrepreneur within ; Preparing for a 100 year life;Significance of ethics;Evolution and extinctions

Moving on:

  • Finding meaning making sense; Understanding the Quantum world;Developing Mathematical mindsets ;Your personal action plan

This program will be offered for the first time from Monday 4th May 2020, and will then onwards begin on the first Monday of every month. Each learner will pursue his or her own trajectory…..

To know more about this program and to register for it please send a WhatsApp message to Prof MM Pant at +919810073724


About mmpant

Prof. M.M.Pant has a Ph.D in Computational Physics, along with a Professional Law Degree, and has been a practitioner in the fields of Law, IT enabled education and IT implementation. Drawing upon his experience in world class international institutions and having taught in various modes of Face-to-Face, Distance Learning and Technology Enhanced Training, Prof. Pant is now exploring the nature of institutions which will be successors to the IITs, which represented the 1960s, IIMs, which represented the 1970 and Open Universities which were the rage of 1980s & 90s. He believes that the convergence between various media and technologies would fundamentally alter the way learning would be created, packaged, and delivered to learners. His current activities are all directed toward actual implementation of these new age educational initiatives that transform education in the post Internet post WTO era.. Prof. Pant, has been a Former Pro-Vice Chancellor, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and has been on the faculty of IIT – Kanpur (the premier Engineering institution in India), MLNR Engineering College and Faculty & Visiting Professor - University of Western Ontario-Canada. He has been visiting scientist to research centers in Italy, England, Germany & Sweden and has delivered international lectures with about 80 papers published. During his association of almost 15 years with the IGNOU, Prof. Pant has served as the Director Computing and has been the Member of All Bodies (i.e. School boards, Academic council, Planning board, Finance committee and the Board of management). With his interest in Law, backed with practice of Law in a High Court, and his basic training in Science and IT, Prof. Pant has been particularly interested in the Cyber Law, Patent & trade mark issues, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues etc. and has been involved with many activities, conferences on “Law & IT” Prof. Pant is presently; • Advisor to Media Lab Asia - Chairman of working group on ICT for Education, chairman of PRSG handling projects on ICT for education. • Lead Consultant for an ADB funded project for ICT in Basic Education in Uzbekistan • Member of the drafting Group for India’s National Policy on ICT in education • Chairman of the group creating books for class 11 and 12 students on ‘Computers and Communication Technology’ appointed by the NCERT • Preparing a ‘Theme Paper” for the NCTE in the area of ICT and Teacher Training • Advisor and mentor to several leading Indian and Multi-national Companies in the area of education. Prof. Pant has in the recent past been ; • Member – Board of Management – I I T, Delhi for 6 years (two consecutive terms) • One-man committee to create the Project Report & Legislation for Delhi IT-enabled Open University • Advisor to the Delhi Government on Asian Network of Major Cities Project (ANMC-21) distance learning project in association with Tokyo Metropolitan Government. • Chairman Board of Studies, All India Management Association With his mission to create and implement new business opportunities in the area of e-learning & learning facilitation, Prof. Pant has promoted Planet EDU Pvt. Ltd., as its Founder & Chairman, along with a team of highly experienced and skilled professionals from Education & Training, Operations, IT and Finance.
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