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Education must be appropriately responding to the 4th Industrial Revolution if students are to achieve success in the real world.

How to educate in the 4th Industrial Revolution


It is time to ensure that the field of education is appropriately responding to the 4IR if students are to achieve success in the real world

Just for a moment, think about your physical environment. Perhaps you’re taking your lunch break in your car that has satellite radio and reading this article on a mobile device. Maybe you’re at home on your computer where you’ve got another browser tab open, creating a meeting agenda in Google Drive to share with your colleagues. 

Evidence that we’re in the middle of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) is all around us. From the mobile device that can connect you via FaceTime or Slack with co-workers worldwide to cloud computing, we operate in a time and space marked by its reliance on artificial intelligence, blockchain, big data, the Internet of Things, and automation.

As individuals interested in empowering the next generation of young people to succeed, it is time to ensure that the field of education is appropriately responding to the 4IR, which has impacted nearly every industry in recent years. The question, then, is how can we ensure that we educate students to succeed in a world dominated by the 4IR?

Education Lags Behind Industry

Industry reacts to the market’s wants and needs as soon as an opportunity to make a profit presents itself. It adopts lightning-speed technologies and uses them in new ways every day. Industry is structured to pivot at a moment’s notice and to innovate rapidly. However, the same cannot be said for the field of education.

Although education is intended to prepare students to live and work successfully in the world as adults, it is currently not prepared to help them do so in the world of the 4IR. This is mainly because education is not as responsive to the needs of industry that lives and breathes the 4IR. Young learners finish school without the mindset and skills necessary to thrive in this environment.

What We Can Do About It

1. Change How We Think.

Partnerships between educational institutions and industry have increased over the decades to help ensure that students graduate with needed skills. However, they have resulted in education that supports learners being able to do a particular job instead of any kind of work, which is necessary for working in the 4IR.

2. Teach the Right Skills.

Students must learn technical skills to navigate life and work in the 4IR successfully. They need to know how to film, make podcasts, blog, and build wikis, for example. Additionally, they need to become adept at different skills, like creativity, working in teams, innovation, time management, communication, and critical thinking. A 2020 World Economic Forum report states that “critical thinking and analysis as well as problem-solving, and skills in self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility” are critical to business leaders.

These skills help students to make the most of existing and new technologies, both now and in the future. If they can learn to think outside the box, they are better prepared to take charge of their learning and become life-long learners.

3. Create Independent, Life-Long Learners.

Upending traditional classrooms and encouraging students to try and fail, collaborate, and innovate is the key to helping students take charge of their learning and encourage their internal motivation and curiosity.

What’s wrong with the memorize and regurgitate educational model? It doesn’t prepare students to work in a world where they will have to learn new skills to stay current and relevant constantly.

A 2017 Institute for the Future and Dell Technologies report states that “around 85% of the jobs that today’s learners will be doing in 2030 haven’t been invented yet.” Furthermore, the World Economic Forum indicates that “by 2025, 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labor between humans and machines, while 97 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labor between humans, machines and algorithms.” Students in classrooms today must be prepared for jobs that don’t even exist yet, and the best way to do that is to prepare them to be self-managing learners who are driven to continue learning throughout their careers.

4. Update Curricula and Its Delivery.

Integrating ideas from STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) with curricula and industry needs is a crucial step in bringing education current with the reality of the 4IR. Reimagining what a classroom looks like is another critical step. Flexible classrooms focusing on teachers facilitating instead of giving knowledge and on students’ interests and abilities will help students develop the skills necessary to succeed in a changing world of technology.

Content should also be participatory and personalized. It should be participatory in creating opportunities for learners to think critically about it. Instead of multiple-choice quizzes that assess their knowledge, learners can apply the knowledge to their learning contexts, which makes it more personalized.

Additionally, content should be delivered in group-based situations, encouraging debate and communication of opinions and information. This promotes the development of the crucial communication skills needed for the 4IR. Groups can also work together to create products that practically demonstrate their learning. This also allows them to evaluate and innovate, further improving their 4IR skills.

Changing how content is delivered is another vital facet of making education more compatible with the 4IR. MOOCs and mobile-accessible learning help create self-guided learning experiences that students can utilize to learn new skills relevant to their particular contexts.

Where to Next?

As we–as parents, formal educators, administrators, and invested community members–reflect on how to prepare our learners for the future, we must focus on equipping them with the skills they need. They need to think big and have the self-confidence to roll with the changes the world will continue to throw at them and use those changes to improve their lives and the world. By rethinking and restructuring education to align with the challenges and opportunities of the 4IR, we are better situated to successfully empower learners for their futures.

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