Education in the future - Meeting New Challenges

Educ1 – EDUCATION IN THE FUTURE – MEETING NEW CHALLENGES

Logic flows broadly from Educ1 onwards.

Introductory statement of fact:  Today many factory jobs and office jobs, including basic legal services, medical diagnostics and accounting, are being automated.  In the next decade, every job that is boring, logical or repetitive will be taken over by “Robots, Computer Algorithms (Bots), Artificial Intelligence (AI), etc.”, and these will be able to do more than you think.  This gives rise to the key question “if technology has taken over our jobs, what will we be doing”?  At the very least, we all need to focus on skills that computers cannot do, especially those of us who will lose our jobs and do not have the skills needed for the jobs of the future.

It is important to realise that the future is probably going to be better than the past as we will not be trapped in boring and repetitive jobs, which means we will be free to pursue more interesting careers.   i.e. Our basic needs will be taken care of and we will be able to move up “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs”, progressively moving ever closer to Self Actualisation.  However, the transition into 2030/40 could be painful if we do not urgently address Education.

MASLOW’s HIERARCHY OF NEEDS

Above I asked, if modern technology is going to take over many of our jobs, what are we going to be doing in the future?  For as long as AI has not equalled humans, say another 25 years, we have one distinct advantage over AI, namely our “humanness”.  i.e. We will be doing the “hyper human” jobs that AI cannot do, which would include tasks that require the likes of:

  • Intuition, perceptiveness, awareness, responsibility, kindness, compassion, etc;
  • Creativity, innovation and forward thinking, used in research & development; and
  • Jobs that are non-repetitive, quirky, fragmented, unpredictable, etc. action; or are
  • Abstract, or require judgement calls.

It is estimated that up to 1 billion “existing” jobs will be lost to automation in the next two decades.  Fortunately, there will be 1 billion new jobs provided we act fast and learn new skills.  Some of these future jobs have not been invented yet and some will be jobs that arise from ever changing priorities in our rapidly changing world.  Looking at the list at this link is an education in itself:-          https://www.futuristspeaker.com/business-trends/162-future-jobs-preparing-for-jobs-that-dont-yet-exist/.   Broadly these are grouped into categories (I added a few), each of which would create a host of jobs, including but no limited to the following:

  • Futurism and Extreme innovation – “If you think it you can do it” – space age stuff;
  • AI development jobs are probably the most sought after and best paying at this stage;
  • Automation, Robotics, 3D Printing, “Computerised Bots (act and/or sound like us)”;
  • Design Future Transportation, Personal Rapid Transport Systems and Space Travel;
  • Developing/refining driverless everything – Electric Vehicles, Commercial Drones, etc;
  • Constant redesign & delivery of education at all levels, including reskilling;
  • Updating Education Software, Ubiquitous cheap / free Education, Micro Colleges;
  • Alternative “green” energy systems and efficient energy storage. Converting Buildings and the Macro Electricity Grid to new smart systems with Micro Electricity Grids;
  • Dismantlers and Recyclers, who get rid of the old – in any industry;
  • Internet of Things (IOT), Sensor World, Digitalisation of everything. Gathering data about us and everything, then Data Mining, Analysis, Interpretation, Diagnostics, etc;
  • Tailored Healthcare – Data collection with Wearables and Lab on a chip, Diagnostic Algorithms, Genome & Biogenetic engineering with CRISPR, 3D printing organs in Bio Factories. Bionic Man, Exoskeletons, etc.  Really staggering stuff going on here;
  • The Quantified Self – gathering absolutely all information about us to benefit from it;
  • Nano-Technology, Nano-Bots, etc. Will be applied/used in almost every industry;
  • IT Platforms & attachments that enable us to do “everything” with our Smartphones;
  • The Blockchain revolution, including alternative financial systems;
  • New Ultimate Customised Materials technology – develop 80 000 new materials;
  • The Sharing Economy. Finding ways of sharing to improve utilisation / reduce waste;
  • Future Agriculture – targeted farming, vertical farming, underwater farming, etc;
  • Atmospheric Water Harvesting and Climate Management;
  • Future homes – contour crafted “3D” homes, underwater cities, floating cities, etc;
  • Senior Living – nursing, caring, entertainment, activities, etc.

However, as more and more is done for us, we will increasingly move into keeping busy, but each of these creates its own industry and employment.  Eg.:

  • Future Sports and growth in existing “Pro” sports, including all support staff, etc;
  • Physical and Mental health and activities – including broader study, philosophy, etc;
  • Tourism, Movies, Games, Art, Theatre, etc. – ever-expanding entertainment industry;
  • Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, which complement and supplement anything;

Since our world is changing dramatically, our priorities, skills, curriculum and system of education need to change quickly.  This will only be possible if Governments truly commit to such change as a primary priority, and that will only happen if the electorate “aggressively” demand it.  More important, change is accelerating, so the new system / curriculum needs to continually adapt and keep up, failing which our children and society will be disadvantaged.  Due to this accelerating change, we will no longer be able to say, “I have finished my studies”, as we will “all” have to engage in perpetual learning just to keep up.  This will be the norm from 2030 onwards, but we should start adopting perpetual learning now.

What is education.  A wise friend suggested “education is the change that takes place in you after you have forgotten the facts”, which makes sense since we mostly use very little of all the “theory” we learn at university in the rapidly evolving “practical” workplace.  Ideally, learning should become an exciting and enlightening experience, so that people want more to the point where they are addicted to learning, especially in this new world where education is going to become a lifelong pastime.  Platforms like Google and YouTube are wonderful sources of tailor made content to keep it exciting and you can teach yourself almost anything (albeit without accreditation).  Wikipedia says “Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and habits. Educational methods include storytelling, discussion, teaching, training, and directed research.  Education frequently takes place under the guidance of educators, but learners may also educate themselves”.

i.e. Education is far broader than the stuff we learn from the education system and should include at least 100 “non-academic” skills, to mould a well-rounded person.  Many of those skills are learned from parents, teachers, family and friends.  In future chapters I will touch on these and on some of the more essential emerging skills needed to function in this new world.

Historically education started in the home, where children learned the above mentioned 100 non-academic skills, but this model has broken down these past 40-50 years, where both parents were working, and grandparents no longer lived in the family home.  This meant many children did not have the benefit of the insights and wisdom of their parents or grand-parents, but were left in aftercare, or home alone, without the right nurturing and moral guidance.

Education is usually divided into stages including nursery school, primary, secondary and tertiary education.  The early stages are critical as they teach the foundation skills like Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.  However, the latter stages are going to become increasingly fluid as they will need to continually adapt to embrace the latest technology and trends.  In addition to the formal system for our children, we need to expand education to accommodate those who lost their jobs and need to be reskilled, those who are in their jobs but need to stay current, and even those who are retired and need to be entertained or stay abreast.

One huge problem is that education differs for the haves and have nots, because those with money can afford a better education and the poor take what they can get from poorly run government schools.  Fortunately, the future may be rosier as education is likely to move online, become easily available and increasingly free for all.  However, for this to work everyone needs access to both “free” uncapped high-speed broadband and smartphones, tablets or computers.  The former should ideally be addressed by Government as happened in Estonia and a few other countries and cities.  The latter is being partly addressed by hand me downs as people upgrade.  Regardless, the future must be about delivering Education for “everyone, anywhere, anytime”.  The “Digital” youth of today, who grew up in this new digital world, are likely to demand and expect nothing less.  They already expect customisation of education, want it to be fun, want it to be relevant, want access anytime, increasingly value the integrity of information and frequently view certification to be of less importance.

In this new world, where we need an expanded / enhanced set of skills, we must ask ourselves what is relevant?  At the very least, the old “Industrial era” model must be expanded to include a more “future relevant” set of skills.  In this regard we must also ask whether, or not, future qualifications are about the same stuff we can find using open online courses via our smartphones / tablets?  Or is it about a host of skills that cannot be found there?  Or both?  Is it about comparing 4 years of study, that is constantly dating, with 4 years of “current” practical experience coupled with self-study?  i.e. Is the day of the formal tertiary education qualification a thing of the past, which is increasingly evident in some careers?  If so, the question is how do we “verify” the work experience we’ve had, the quality of that experience, and the scope and quality of the online courses done?  Do we store that experience record on Blockchain, where the record cannot be altered and, if so, how do we solve the quality assurance dilemma?  Will we increasingly be rated by all software platforms and have a combined weighted work ethic and integrity rating in a rate-ocracy (ratocracy?) world.  Or will it be as described below.

Imagine a very real scenario where most education is done online and is gamified during the last 6 years at school.  Say a pupil needs 3 000 points from 5 “educational games”, with a maximum of 700 out of 2 000 points per game, to graduate to the next school level.  Firstly, this would allow an element of self-directed learning where each pupil will find a different way to earn those points, given his natural aptitude.  Secondly, this would allow bright students to complete their schooling earlier and not be held back by slower students.  Thirdly, on leaving school, each student would know his/her aptitudes, which would help with career choices.  Allowing education to go on-line and become increasingly free, should provide a more equitable system.  i.r.o. The matter of certification, one can suggest that anyone can do the course online, as the university would know if they had completed the course, but the student would have to pay if they want the certificate.  Today it is easy to guard against anybody else doing the computer work for you, as modern software can recognise and “continually” monitor keystroke rhythms and writing styles, engage in facial and retinal recognition checks, etc.

Given the above, where it is almost certain that education will increasingly be done online, how does the physical education environment change.  Do teachers just become facilitators in the class, or facilitators online, or can even they be replaced by virtual assistants, or do they focus on developing online content.  Do we still need those buildings, or is learning increasingly going to happen at home, or anywhere for that matter?  Does the purpose of a school change from a purely educational one, to one where broader skills such as the development of social, sporting and other practical skills like building robots are encouraged?

So where do we start.  Because of the accelerating / exponential rate of change, let us assume “we are already out of time”!  i.e. We cannot change the curriculum in the next few years and then wait a generation to achieve a mind-shift of this magnitude, as technology will have passed us by in that time.  Therefore, the change must be almost immediate and continuous.  First, we would have to, at the very least, have high speed broadband access and world class online courses at all schools.  In addition, the education system should preferably change at all secondary and tertiary grades simultaneously, which would be extremely difficult to manage due to the leap that would occur in certain grades.   However, we face numerous secondary problems, such as the fact that the curriculum would have to be changed / updated annually and teachers will have to be reskilled continually.  Regardless, none of this can be achieved if courses are not on-line and public officials do not wholly endorse these turbo strategies.

Almost certainly, there is a very high risk that this change will not happen fast enough in developing countries and that the gap between both the knowledge and the incomes of the have’s and the have not’s will increase.  i.e. We end up with a world of those who kept up and another of those who were left behind at the provincial, national and global level.

Remember, an education is the one asset that can never be taken away from you and the one asset that gives lasting pleasure.  Equal education should be a right.

CONCLUSION – We are already out of time, we need to change now

There is no doubt that massive redeployment and a skills mismatch are baked in the cake.  Governments need to act swiftly to limit the disruptive impact, as the education system needs to change immediately and continually to meet the rapidly evolving “new” needs of this Third/Fourth Multi-tech Industrial Revolution.  In addition, Governments urgently should push for both Equal and Free education for all to mitigate probable unrest during the disruptive redeployment transition period, which should be a very achievable reality if Education goes online.  To do this, the “new” skills needed to meet these future challenges need to be urgently identified, taught and nurtured.  Finally, learning must become available to all and urgently become a way of life.


Note!  All these reports are educational, free and published weekly.

Free Subscription – if you want to subscribe to this free newsletter, click on this LINK.  These, and earlier reports, can all be viewed at EelcoGold.com

Disclaimer!  The content of this report represents the opinions of Mr Lodewijks, who is a retired Civil Engineer with diverse interests.  Where applicable, the content should be deemed informative guidance to get the reader thinking and not specific advice.

Education Focus on Future Skills

Educ2 – EDUCATION FOCUS ON FUTURE SKILLS

Logic flow broadly from oldest (Educ1) to most recent

We now live in a world, where we urgently need new skills because of an explosion of new technologies and technological advances.  Due to the exponential acceleration, everything is happening ever faster, including the time from conceptualisation to commercialisation – Eg. Currently Samsung and Apple must launch a Smart-phone with materially better features every 6 months, failing which they could become another Nokia.  This accelerated process is now happening in every sphere of life, which suggests that we need new approaches and skills to meet future challenges.  Historically we had the luxury of time to do extended feasibility studies, but today decisions to proceed are increasingly based on something called “weak signals”, i.e. the “team’s” intuitive sense of feature rightness.  Historically we could engage in elaborate market research, but today because of the internet, any attempt at market research would instantly land in the hands of the opposition.  Therefore, to meet this rapidly changing future, we each need to master some old skills better and learn many “new” skills.

All this starts with a change in mind set, particularly w.r.t. the following: 

  • It is a human “failing” that we resist change because being out of control is a terrifying thought, which is counterintuitive as change is constant in the creation. Furthermore, considering the accelerating rate of change of technology, “uncertainty” and “being out of control” are a future given.  Therefore, learning to love and embrace the adventure promised by uncertainty, change and being out of control will be a future asset.  Think about it like this: resisting change is about trying to maintain the boring status quo, which equates to “merely existing”; whereas embracing change equates to the continuous adrenalin rush of “living life” – on the edge.  This means we need to teach our children to be open to new ideas, to love both change (adventure) and being out of their depth (being alive).  The new buzz word is a high “Adaptability Quotient”, which equates to a love of change, new experiences and new ideas.  This is easier if they have a strong self-image;
  • Historically we graduated and then worked. In future, continuous study will become a norm and we will never stop learning, as we try to stay abreast of change;
  • Historically, many of us could rely on one primary skill (career) to earn a living. In future, we need to become multidisciplinary as we are likely to have at least 3-5 different careers in your lifetime and companies are increasingly contracting out work to teams;
  • Historically we retired at 65. Due to dramatic future improvements in longevity, we need to change our mindset to one of working until we no longer can.

In this era of time compression and rapid change, some of the expanded and new skills we need will include the following:

  • Coping with information overload by way of selective reading, speed reading and improved ability to discriminate, especially i.r.o. inaccurate or false information / news;
  • Dealing with stress, which arises when we are not coping with pressure, as rapid change reduces time which induces pressure. These will become the norm;
  • The ability to comprehend / grasp ideas / assimilate knowledge quickly – i.e. connect the dots quickly. This ties into common sense, which is not at all common;
  • Develop an innate curiosity and openness to new ideas. Wanting to understand things is useful as this enhances common sense and predisposes one to learning new things;
  • The ability to learn on the job in the moment, as we will increasingly “not know the new machine / process” and will have to follow the software prompts at workface;
  • Decisiveness and a willingness to take the initiative. In this era of time compression, “he who hesitates is lost” becomes more relevant as we have ever less time to seek certainty.  However, more than ever we need to ask “am I setting a precedent and what are the consequences of my decision” before making any decision;
  • Decisiveness ties into independence and self confidence as you need those to take a stand;
  • Learn to become extremely analytical and refine your critical thinking;
  • Intuitive decision making. In this future era of time compression, we will increasingly have to rely on our intuition to assist us in making decisions based on weak signals.  This ties in with teamwork as the team’s “gut feel” will be the foundation of decisions;
  • Become a team player – much of future work will be in teams with differing skills;
  • Challenge both conventional thinking and knowledge, ways of doing things
  • Super enhanced Lateral, Innovative and Creative thinking, as this will help companies maintain their competitive edge by remaining at the forefront of technology change;
  • Develop the skill of learning how to “ask the right questions”. The wider the plethora of choices we are presented with, in this era of multiple technologies, platforms, options, the more important this becomes;
  • Develop a bias i.f.o. continuous innovation / transformational thinking
  • Become Goal oriented as we live in an era where “if you want it, you can do it”, but embrace flexibility i.r.o. your willingness to adopt your strategies (how to get there);

However, these are only some of the future “work” skills, many of which are not taught at schools or in the workplace but are nurtured in the formative years at home and/or learned in society.  Included in these would be things like the above mentioned spirit of adventure and love of change.  Why do we need to change?  Mostly because if we do not, we are going to fall behind and suffer unpleasant consequences.  Another reason why we need to change is that the internet and social media are increasingly making every action transparent.  Increasingly everything is being rated and it’s only a matter of time before someone combines all these ratings to create a new rate‑ocracy environment.  This means it will be increasingly difficult to hide your failings, which means we need to become more honest, etc.

Bearing in mind that we now need to excel at the things computers cannot do, we need to focus on those “Hyper Human” qualities discussed in the previous chapter and make them and integral part of our being.  More important, as Artificial Intelligence progresses, we need to constantly refine our “Hyper human” skills if we are to stay ahead.

As mentioned in the previous chapter, we are likely to be moving further up Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.  This means we need to become more touch with the finer qualities associated with human beings, which include kindness, compassion, honesty and integrity.

MASLOW’s HIERARCHY OF NEEDS

It is my contention that in the future, when our basic needs are fulfilled by robots and automation, we will have more time to focus on our children, particularly i.r.o. turning them into well rounded people with all the skills needed to face the rapidly changing future.  Furthermore, I contend that this must be a high priority if they are to have any chance of success.  However, you cannot teach honesty and integrity if you do not display these qualities in daily life, as children intuitively pick up any wrong action.  i.e. The future is about teaching “right action” in every aspect of life.

Inter alia, in a world where it may be progressively less about work and more about life, some more of the “Hyper Human” qualities we would need to teach our children, in addition to those mentioned earlier, would include the following:

  • Self Confidence. Dare to be different.  We are all different, so do not try to be the same – to always conform.  I always say, “Who wants to be normal, I used to be normal, but with treatment I am getting better”.  Be proud to be different – it goes hand in hand with self-confidence and a lack of self-confidence often arise from comparing yourself with others – Desiderata Quote: “Do not compare yourself with others, for always there will be greater or lesser persons than yourself and so you will become vain or bitter;
  • Be Human. Ask yourself what it is to be human.  Inter alia, we are social animals, so we need strong social skills.  This often evolves into networking, another valuable quality;
  • Love of our most human qualities including love of life, people, nature and the creator;
  • Consideration, kindness, compassion, humility, etc;
  • Absolute Honesty, Ethics and Integrity. Clearly understanding the difference between right and wrong.  Trust is obliterated when you are caught on the wrong side only once;
  • Strong self-image – comfortable in their own skin. Standing up for what you think is right;
  • Strong sense of curiosity and spirit of adventure. Always pushing the limits – comfortable being out of your depth;
  • Use of the analytical mind – love of knowledge & philosophy – the search for the truth;
  • Love of reading, exposure to new ideas, new concepts, including history for perspective;
  • How to deal with adversity – you cannot get through life without problems, deal with it;
  • Perspective and attitude – put things into perspective and adopt the right attitude;
  • Self Discipline – inter alia, they need this to maintain a study mentality;
  • Love of sport and this improves self-discipline, co-ordination and entrenches teamwork;
  • A sense of humour and mischief – these go hand in hand with lateral thinking & creativity. Almost without exception, I found the naught “C” students at school and university did far better in business than those with straight “A’s”;
  • Insisting on understanding things, as this eliminates the need to memorise, helps create a sense of perspective and boosts common sense;
  • Common sense – the ability to think – i.e. to connect the dots – when they are toddlers, never answer their ”why – why” questions, rather guide them in finding the answers;
  • A sense responsibility – doing the things that need to be done, even if you don’t want to;
  • A balance between a sense of Maturity/Responsibility and a sense of fun;
  • Love of art, theatre, as these develop creativity and lateral thinking – key future skills;
  • Love of music and languages as these all contribute to a sharper / better mind;
  • Appreciation of healthy living, love of exercise, sport and co-ordination;
  • Ability to discriminate and prioritise – time management;
  • Avoiding excess in favour of measure and moderation;
  • Ability to delegate – goes hand in hand with strong self-image – not threatened by others;
  • Learn to really listen to what others are saying. It is a sign of respect.  Thinking about other things while they are talking is a sign of disrespect;
  • Delegation, people management skills and leadership. These are only possible if you have a strong self-image, “like” people and understand people;
  • Financial literacy, business sense, streetwise, etc;
  • I am sure there are many more.

Looking at the above list, we as parents will have to become better at figuring out how to instil and refine each of these skills in our children with a high probability of success.  This in itself would take a book.

CONCLUSION – Adapt or die?  Not quite, just urgently embrace future skills

There is little time before the accelerating technology train is past us and that would merely make it difficult to catch up.  Therefore, we must act fast to improve our skills and those of our children, failing which there could be costly or unpleasant consequences.


Note!  All these reports are educational, free and published weekly.

Free Subscription – if you want to subscribe to this free newsletter, click on this LINK.  These, and earlier reports, can all be viewed at EelcoGold.com

Disclaimer!  The content of this report represents the opinions of Mr Lodewijks, who is a retired Civil Engineer with diverse interests.  Where applicable, the content should be deemed informative guidance to get the reader thinking and not specific advice.

 

Eelco Lodewijks

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