“Educating oneself for an unknown and uncertain world”
One of my favorite stories that I have been sharing these days is about Albert Einstein and his teaching assistant when he was teaching at Princeton University. He had just wrapped up administering a test to a group of second year physics students when his teaching assistant approached him and asked, “Dr. Einstein, wasn’t that the same exam you gave to this sameclass of students last year?”
Einstein paused for a moment then replied, “Yes, it was the same exam.”
Perplexed by that answer, his teaching assistant then asked, “ How could you give the same exam to the same class two years in a row?”
“You’re right, these are the same questions as last year” Einstein replied– “but the answers have changed.”
The point Einstein was trying to make, was that due to the number of insights and discoveries in the field of physics, the correct answers at that moment were very different from what they were even a year ago. He had himself during the year published 4 pathbreaking papers, on Brownian movement, Special Theory of relativity, General theory of relativity and the photoelectric effect. And people like Heisenberg, Schroedinger, Neils Bohr, Max Planck, Paul Dirac, Wolfgang Pauli and others were laying the foundations of Quantum Mechanics as the theory to describe the world.
I love this story because it’s so reflective of how education has fundamentally transformed over just a year. Our Bharata Ratna Prof CNR Rao had said in a meeting at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in 2015 that 90% of our University Curricula were out of date ( https://www.hindustantimes.com/education/90-of-indian-varsities-have-outdated-curriculum-cnr-rao/story-OqDUW0dbaJc2MeXmbiOSRP.html). Heads of 114 institutions where the President is the visitor were participating in the three-day Conference. But no one took note.
Now a virus about 100 nm in diameter (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7224694/) has shaken up the entire education system during the last year.
The Questions regarding teaching are the same but the answers have changed, and many of you will agree, over the past one year.
The same questions :
- Who teaches?
- Where do we teach?
- How do the learners access learning?
- How do we support learners ( pastoring)?
- How do we assess learners?
- What learning resources do we deploy?
- How do we manage their credentials?
What has changed?
- The mobile learning infrastructure : Reliance-Google collaboration with Android Go… the new Operating System. This was scheduled to be announced at the Reliance AGM on 24th June 2021, but there may be some hiccups according to reports. This phone is expected to reach 900 million users ( learners).
- From being banned in educational Institutions, the mobile device will become the key learning device.
- The 4th Industrial revolution : Klaus Schwab in WEF 2016.
- In January 2021 WEF estimated that a billion people have to be re-skilled by the year 2030.
- The 4th Education Revolution : Anthony Seldon
- The AI recommendation and personalisation engines
- Learning Software like AlphaGo Zero and self-driving cars
- The Pandemic………imposed restrictions in movement and proximity….
What will be the new educational ecosystem?
10 Elements of the new educational eco-system:
1: Educators who are AI empowered self-learning facilitators
2: Lifelong self-learning communities ( as opposed to age and stage based learning) and co-learning spaces.
3: AI supported HelpDesks
4: A personal learning chatbot for every learner
5: AI powered learning Apps.( Duolingo, iMath etc.)
6: An AI powered personalised assessment, monitoring and feedback system
7: Learning Prescriptions, Learning Capsules and Learning Pills
8: Mobile Learning ( not desktop).
9: Wearables for self-learning ( AR and VR)
10: Blockchains and badges for credentials
Like the development of Quantum Physics, each of these elements are being developed and explored by many entrepreneurs and innovators. From Sugata Mitra’s explorations in SOLE ( Self-organised learning environments: Child Driven Education )to Teacherless software professional development as in Ecole42 ( https://youtu.be/kskJUR4V4YI) and Elon Musk’s recent Synthesis initiative ( https://interestingengineering.com/learning-through-play-how-synthesis-plans-to-bring-the-ad-astra-astra-nova-model-to-the-entire-world ) are all progressive steps that give glimpses of the future of education. In due course, they will merge into a new Science of learning that will be able to function together, and address its key challenges: the challenge of numbers, the challenge of quality, the challenge of access, the challenge of relevance and the challenge of costs.
The matter is urgent, because various reports have suggested the mismatch between what is expected of educated persons and what we have, to the extent that Yuval Noah Harari has warned of an emerging “useless class” (https://youtu.be/OMDlfNWM1fA)
As was said by William Gibson, almost 20 years back in an article in the The Economist, December 4, 2003…..” The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed”