New technologies will usher an unprecedented level of uncertainty in education, as well as vocation. Our world we will soon have a long-term disruption cycle, where changes and decisions made today will impact us for generations to come.
With these amazing changes, we are also offered an opportunity to shape this future--and we must start with education.
To better contextualize this moment in history, we could compare the upcoming changes with the time when electricity disrupted the workforce. Soon, complete job categories would disappear; millions of workers, who already feel left behind, will be further disenfranchised.
Around the world people are concerned; these massive shifts will create extensive gaps in the skills that workers currently possess and skills that they will eventually need.
The question is what can we do now?
I believe education will be a key tool to manage these challenges. We will need to reformat and repackage education, in order to help people, ride this wave of change and give them the skills they will need for the new jobs of the next century.
General expert consensus asserts that most current education systems were developed for the needs of the last century and have created conflict for current students.
For instance, let us look at higher education: it has not been designed to deliver the skills needed for the technological disruption ahead. We need to develop education and skill development training that work for all. If we ignore this, we will face disaster.
Recent political developments in the West, especially the rise of populist nationalism, point to the breakdown of societies when policies do not align with the needs of the people.
Even in India, employers are realizing how hard it is to find people that can truly make impact in the organization. We need a system that produces people that can add qualitative and quantitative value to their organizations, and be hired as soon as possible.
But our current curriculum does not support this. Students are still taught to memorize facts and prepare for exams based on learning these facts. A culture, and a cycle, of examinations is entrenched in India.
For far too long, we have decided to judge students based on percentage points and rote learning. Kashmir, as well, has slid into the way of thinking and rather than support the needs of our youthful and dynamic working-age population, we have continued to follow this model.
And negative aspects of this model have been further exacerbated by the ongoing political and economic turmoil.
What we need are creative and innovative approaches to this educational quagmire.
We cannot wait for reforms, or top-down policies that incentivize perverse educational models. We need solutions that work now. Every year, thousands of students graduate from different universities in Kashmir; majority of them do not find jobs. The reason is that they lack skills that add ‘value’ to the organization.
To start with, students will need to learn how to become problem-solvers. They must learn how employees can contribute towards achieving organizational goals.
Students need to learn data analysis skills, using software programs such as Microsoft Excel and R. These programs will help them augment their quantitative skills.
And one doesn't need to go far for learning these: there are ample videos on YouTube, and numerous courses on websites like Coursera and Edx. These courses are taught by leading professors from top universities all over the world.
Students will also need to develop strong critical thinking skills and emotional intelligence. The modern workplace is very interpersonal. Skills such as listening, collaborating with peers, presenting ideas, and communicating effectively with team members are all highly valued in almost all organizations that work on multinational programs.
These qualities can be together termed as being highly intelligent emotionally. These skills are becoming increasingly valuable because even if automation occurs in different industries, these ‘human’ skills will be useful, at least for now.
Schools can help develop these skills by reformatting the curriculum to include more group-based and case-based learning that encourages students to work together and arrive at solutions in a more collaborative manner.
There will be no magical solutions that will help us in this process; it will be a long and arduous one, but if we start thinking about it now, it will be worth it.