3 ways to disrupt education and help bridge the skills gap

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: B Kalyan Kumar, Corporate Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer, HCL Technologies Ltd

  • By 2025, 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines.
  • Education systems, and the lives of millions of young people, are in danger of being left behind by this pace of change.
  • Here are three key ways educators can prepare students for the future of work.

Alarmist headlines on the skills gap are incessant: 50% of all employees need reskilling by 2025; Digital skills emergency; Employers shift focus from education to skills; Don’t get left behind in a digital future!

As a technologist, I see the glaring skills mismatch every single day. As a parent, I am cautiously hopeful that our schools will help bridge this gap.

Last month I spoke to a group of 13-year-olds in my son’s school on the future of skills from a tech perspective. A LinkedIn post wrote about it garnered huge interest – I was asked these three questions: Do you have bitcoins? Are you a billionaire? Will robots replace humans? The questions reflected the pop culture image of the tech industry in Silicon Valley. But they also revealed the dire need to help an intensely curious, acutely aware and aspirational generation, bridge the gap between hype, fear and reality.

It got me thinking about how we guide this brilliant brigade waiting impatiently for us to lead them to the future. Are we doing our best to prepare them for the rapidly changing landscape? Are we helping them build the right skills to succeed in a largely unknown world?

These are critical and urgent questions that must be asked. I do not have all the answers, but I do wonder if we need a broad shift in mindset. Are we focused more on our achievements in history than the challenges of the future? We need to collectively question the existing approach in skill development to prepare for an unknown future.

The future is knocking at our doors

Let’s look at the scenario ahead. According to the Future of Jobs 2020 report by the World Economic Forum, 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines by 2025, while 97 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms – that’s just over three years away.

The fact is that nearly half the jobs face potential automation, and 65% of children in school today will end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist. Existing jobs may not go away but will certainly be different. For instance, banking will go almost entirely virtual, and core professions like medicine will exist but with an extensive technology filter.

The future of jobs.
The future of jobs. Image: HCL Technologies Research & Intelligence

Furthermore, 84% of employers are set to rapidly digitalize working processes; and 94% of business leaders report that they expect employees to pick up new skills on the job. In fact, in what is being coined the “Upskilling Economy”, companies across the world are investing billions of dollars to reskill their workforce. Clearly, the future of work has already arrived for a large majority of workers.

Our education system is in danger of being left behind by this dizzying pace of change. If teenage students are wondering about cryptocurrency, should we be teaching them about blockchain? If they’re curious about robots, at what point should we open the doors to automation, artificial intelligence (AI), or machine learning?

The “what” and the “how”

To borrow a thought from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Curriculum (re)design now’s the time to dig deep into the “what” and the “how” questions for education. One important lesson that the pandemic taught us, is that our educational institutions and policy makers can move very quickly in response to a crisis. The question is, why wait for a crisis? There is no denying that we need change. It’s time to open our minds to the opportunities and challenges ahead and how the education system must respond to prepare students. I’d like to lay out three major shifts for a potential jumpstart.

1. Disrupt the legacy curriculum

This is not a simple one-step curriculum change, not an add-on subject in computer science, but an ongoing journey in transforming the processes, the experience, even the purpose – opening the doors wider to technology. This is not to undermine the need to focus on history or the arts.

These are undoubtedly valuable. In fact, it is fascinating to see that programmes like the International Baccalaureate offer a vast variety of options such as Philosophy of Religion and Ethics, Social & Cultural Anthropology, Ancient History & Classical Civilization, even languages such as Latin. I do not question the role these play in a student’s development. But, looking ahead, we need to balance this with an equally sharp focus on the future where digital literacy, data science and new-age technologies will play a key role in determining success. It is about making cloud and AI an intrinsic part of learning.

The argument is not so much about a scrimmage between subjects. It is about building skills for enquiry, analysis, and interpretation. It is about tech intensity, about investing in a horizontal layer of technology and allowing it to cut through the entire spectrum of the education journey. It is about reimagining the curriculum and reassessing foundational literacies and competencies for the future; moving beyond the 3Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic) to embracing the 5Cs – critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication and coding.

2. Disrupt the role of the teacher

Our educators need to build the courage to lose control. To let go, to join in and embrace automation, robotics, and algorithms. Parents are the sandwich generation – born in a different era, we need a human touch and are apprehensive of algorithmic interpretations. But teachers need to lead the change in the classroom. To quote Professor Erica McWilliam, they need to move from being the “Sage on the Stage”; they even need to give up the being the “Guide on the Side” to become the “Meddler in the Middle” – a collaborative co-learner in the thick of the action.

We also need to break down the artificial boundaries within the curriculum and help find solutions to real-world problems – taking a leaf from the phenomenon-based learning approach adopted by Finland in its national school curriculum, which mandates a multidisciplinary module based on 21st-century skills.

3. Disrupt the pace

There is no time left for generational handovers. The pace of innovation and change in technology is furious. We see it all around us. Moore’s law has become redundant and as the famous futurist Ray Kurzweil said, “There’s even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth.” And our kids are hungry for this change. Not surprisingly, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit report Driving the Skills Agenda, 58% of teachers agree that their students often have a more advanced understanding of technology than them. Our students are already in the fast lane. We need to join them there and help them develop the skills they need.

A need to reconfigure the future

We are responsible to create the framework for success in a future not yet known. As the OECD stated in The Future We Want, “In the era of digital transformation and with the advent of big data, digital literacy and data literacy are becoming increasingly essential.”

To address these essentials, we need a goal-based approach in a continuing journey – equipping education to reconfigure the future. This will demand fundamental shifts from control to engagement, from rigidity to agility, and from power to partnership. The first step, as a young student suggested to me, might be getting 50-year-old leaders to acknowledge that they don’t know it all.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Australia urged to evacuate offshore detainees amid widespread, acute mental distress

Any doubt?

From funders to partners: elevating community expertise to help communities thrive

German opposition win in Lower Saxony felt all over Europe

London is becoming the world’s first National Park City

Yemen consultations have started, insists top UN negotiator

Commission approves emergency measures to protect eastern Baltic cod

How data can help mining companies tackle their trust deficit

From drought to floods in Somalia; displacement and hunger worsen, says UN

From raised fists at the 1968 Olympics to taking the knee: A history of racial justice protests in sport

Will the European Court of Justice change data privacy laws to tackle terrorism?

This is how travel hotspots are fighting back against overtourism

Do all you can to resolve climate change ‘sticking points’ UN chief urges South-East Asian leaders, in Bali

Four lessons from Africa on building effective business ecosystems

Australian homes are turning to solar power in record numbers

European research priorities for 2021-2027 agreed with member states

Meeting the basic needs of our healthcare workers

Mental health: a medical school’s demand

Embracing the diversity in a multicultural city of Romania

The EU Commission lets money market funds continue the unholy game of banks

How the power of sport can bring us together and drive social justice

EU Blue Card: Commission welcomes political agreement on new rules for highly skilled migrant workers

Why building consumer trust is the key to unlocking AI’s true potential

Ukraine’s new political order not accepted in Crimea

Protecting European consumers: toys and cars on top of the list of dangerous products

This is how New York plans to end its car culture

Progress against torture in Afghan detention centres, but Government needs to do more, says UN report

European Citizens’ Initiative: Commission registers ‘Mandatory food labelling Non-Vegetarian / Vegetarian / Vegan’ initiative’

Is South Korea set to lose from its FTA with the EU?

Anti-vaccers: does the empty can rattle the most?

The role of public affairs in student NGOs

Future Forces Forum: Prague will be hosting the most important project in the field of Defence and Security

Latin America’s cities are ready to take off. But their infrastructure is failing them

Political power of women suffering ‘serious regression’, General Assembly President warns

7 top things to know about coronavirus today

How global trade can save lives and livelihoods – and help protect the planet

EU job-search aid worth €9.9 million for 1,858 former Air France workers

European Semester 2018 Spring Package: Commission issues recommendations for Member States to achieve sustainable, inclusive and long-term growth

COVID-19: Save European culture and values, MEPs tell Commission

Children suffering ‘atrocities’ as number of countries in conflict hits new peak: UNICEF

We need to rethink ESG to ensure access to water and sanitation for all

International Court of Justice orders Pakistan to review death penalty for Indian accused of spying

Rise in violent conflict shows prevention ‘more necessary than ever’: UN chief

Top UN political official updates Security Council on Iran nuclear deal

It’s not summer holidays what lead to the bad August of the German economy

How can the world end viral hepatitis by 2030? 5 experts explain

How to talk about climate change: 5 tips from the front lines

Failure to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia is a mistake

Myanmar doing too little to ensure displaced Rohingya return: UN refugee agency chief

Further reforms in Sweden can drive growth, competitiveness and social cohesion

EU-UK relations: solutions found to help implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland

Statistics show the ugly face of youth training schemes

Croatian Presidency outlines priorities to EP committees

Media and entertainment in flux: it’s time for the close-up

5 droughts that changed human history

Are the G20 leaders ready to curb corporate tax-avoidance?

European Youth, quo vadis?

China is the first non-EU country to invest in Europe’s €315 billion Plan

EU institutions agree on priorities for coming years: A common agenda for our recovery and renewed vitality

Coronavirus Global Response: EIB and Commission pledge additional €4.9 billion

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s