Media artist Refik Anadol melds art with artificial intelligence in his studio’s collaboration with architects, data scientists, neuroscientists and musicians. In his TED2020 talk, art in the age of machine Intelligence, Refik uses the power of visualisation of digitised memories and expands architecture possibilities. His work has made it possible to capture the history of people, places and monuments digitally. Does Rafik sound like a fictional character and his art a work of fiction? No, the narration is authentic, and a shadow of the future of education cast on us.
The industrial revolution in its history of over three centuries, has thrown some interesting statistics. The world population has gone up by ten times since the first industrial revolution. The economy has grown by the same size as the population. The per capita energy expenditure has gone up by fifteen times. Interestingly, the literacy rates have skyrocketed by more than eight times. The advent of the internet has opened new vistas in self-learning. The schools and colleges are no more the only hubs of learning. TED education, YouTube videos, Massive online open courses, MOOCs are additional gurus. Does it mean that education has moved at a pace with the rest of the Industrial revolution indicators? Perhaps not.
Despite the massive gains recorded in education, the sector suffers from several challenges. Excessive dependence on memorisation, teacher-driven content management, the perpetuation of passing the examination as the sole purpose of education, disregarding classroom diversity and making all children learn the same thing in the same manner for the same duration characterises formal education. The best description of the aberrations in the teaching and learning comes from the bunch of letters the children of Barbiana wrote to their teacher to ensure that equality and social justice do not remain a dream. They were published in "Social Class, Language and Power,- 'Letter to a Teacher: Lorenzo Milani and the School of Barbiana by Borg, Carmel et al., 2013 (p.92). Students demanded from their teachers, (I) please do not fail us, (II) to those who seem to be cretins, offer them full-time schooling, (III) To the unwilling, it is enough to give them a goal. The plan put forth by the students is a telling commentary on the state of education we have practised for centuries.
Another challenge we embedded unwittingly in education is to shift the focus of education from the flourishing of individuals through character and intellectual growth to a misplaced cognitive development alone. A foremost thought leader of holistic education, Ron Miller, commented that "education today is not a collaborative art of mentoring and nurturing the young, but a frenzied scramble to succeed according to some external measure of success." Where does the remedy lie? And what then defines the best version of education, fashionably called Education4.0?
McKinsey and Company have done beneficial research on the future of skills required in 2030 compared to the base year2016, taking the number of hours spent across sectors to represent new skills. The US and Europe’s research data reveal that more hours will go in sectors requiring higher cognitive skills, social and emotional skills, and technological skills. In contrast, figures for the physical and manual work and lower order cognitive skills are on a decline. Schools need a redesigned curriculum to incorporate those skills to equip the students for the future, as predicted by McKinsey research.
The digital skills range from the basic digital necessities to navigate the new work-life environment to advanced technical skills to help us find solutions to the social problems that the world faces. Alongside we also need to cultivate non-digital competencies such as perseverance, resilience and embracing multicultural workplaces. Senator Elizabeth Warren introduces a bill to establish an educational equity challenge grant in the US. It proposes a $100 billion application-based grant program that would implement evidence-based strategies to improve academic, mental health, and interpersonal outcomes such as social-emotional learning, culturally responsive practices, and tutoring. The bill greenlights the ingredients of Education 4.0.
Inspired by the thought that 5Ps: People, Prosperity, Planet, Peace and Partnership are the five pillars of Universal sustenance, the collective will of the entire humanity found a voice in 2015 through the adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the UN. Goal4 seeks to "ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all" by 2030. It is instructive to note that goal 4.7 specifically talks about global citizenship values. The National Education Policy 2020, govt of India, recognises these missing links in the school curriculum and refers to the SDGs in its preamble.
Education4.0 is heading towards a more personalised, project-based, competency building, self-directed learning. COVID19 pandemic has added new demands on the future of education. Access to the internet, digital devices and data cards will be the educational infrastructure demands. A middle path between a wholly brick and mortar school building and a complete online education giving flexibility and options to a vast majority of beneficiaries will be a new education delivery model. Such a hybrid model for quality output will demand the teachers to redefine their teaching value chain to be more inclusive and child-centric.
The most successful models in education worldwide have relied on a broad non-partisan consensus on equity, parity between cognitive and vocational education, driving talent to the teaching profession and parental engagement as partners in learning. The future of education is not a foreign entity to be chased. It is a model of societal aspirations for success and sustainability. Education 4.0 is firmly perched in community building's moral principles, treating education as an infinite process in the quest for collective liberation from ignorance and the revolutionary SDGs adopted by the UN.
About the Author:
Mr Ashok Pandey is a Delhi-based educationist, SDGs evangelist and National Coordinator, Climate Reality Education, CRP India.