When did you last drive to a known destination against the direction given by Google Maps? When did you last override the music playlist created by your music app? Humans delegating decision-making to technology is only going to increase as we start trusting machine algorithms more than our own minds. There is another reason why this evolution is unstoppable and may even be good for humanity. Today a few at the top, take decisions in the so-called interest of the rest. This model of decision-making is creating huge dissatisfaction and thus the time is ripe for a change that increasingly delegates individual and collective decision making to neutral machine algorithms.
This change is positive as long as we find better ways to engage the human mind. For example, hiring decisions would surely move over to the machines; however, despite evolution in facial recognition technology, I still believe a human would be inspired by another human. So how should we reimagine the skills for the future that we would need to engage the human mind? How do we reimagine our education system to create the needed skills? How do we ensure that children in government schools with limited resources are not left behind?
The path to working with AI
The ask is clear – prepare our children to understand, manage and leverage technology like never before. How our children fare in the future will depend entirely on how we reimagine our education system today. Collaborative Intelligence will come to the fore wherein humans and technology will join forces. Students will need to have the skills to create value by working alongwith Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is adding depth and scale to newer challenges and so humans are expected to acquire and cultivate skills to complement technology.
The education system of the future will have to be very different from the one that we know of today. While working with AI will be essential, I think and as I had mentioned before it will still take a human to inspire another. In a future education system, the teacher will play the role of Chief Inspirer to ignite the minds of children. Teaching will move beyond the classroom to facilitate skills like real world learning of the usage of technology. For that to happen in a meaningful way for the children we will need to first revolutionize the making of a teacher. We need to set up teacher training institutes like the IIMs and focus on developing thousands of teachers with cutting edge thinking and deep knowledge of tech and usage of data relevant to the future. Such trained teachers should earn as much as an MBA student to drive this transformation. What if we guarantee say a Rs 10 lakh per year government scholarship for all talented teachers who pass and work in the education system teaching millions of our children in government schools?
A future education system also has to focus on learning personalisation as opposed to content personalisation that are propagated by most EdTech platforms. We leave a lot of children behind as they are not able to keep up with the pace due to their different styles of learning, and never due to their incapacity. The spatially intelligent child would crave for a diagram or a 3D model to make sense of the concept but only the cohort with linguistic intelligence will reap the benefit through the commonly applied lecturing method of teaching. With the help of technology, learning is fast moving away from mass commoditization into a sphere of personalisation. Thus, our future education would need child focused personalisation of educational content and even pedagogy which would be enabled by fast evolving technology that uses body facial expressions or neural signals to input emotions into learning. Simply segregating the children according to their style of learning will make the pedagogy more focused and will guarantee learning, creating an environment where the act of learning itself will become the motivation to achieve more. Similarly, assessments have to be personalized and one test fits all has to be replaced.
Integrated Curriculum is another key enabler for reimaging education. The days of studying subjects separately are over. By the time students program their brain to assimilate English grammar, the bell rings and the math teacher now wants those brains to align with trigonometry. This almost anti-learning exercise needs to end; we need integrated studies where all knowledge is combined or transitions from its one facet to the other seamlessly without disturbing the learning curve. Looking ahead, we need to create a balance by reassessing the foundational literacies and competencies and reimagining the curriculum while embracing critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, and coding as the essential skills for students’ holistic development for the future. Learning will happen anywhere anytime as technology has enabled us to build platforms of collaboration where students from different parts of the world can learn and create together.
Starting from the bottom and not the top – focus on primary education will still hold a lot of relevance. NIPUN is a great statement of intent towards laying a solid foundation that needs simplification and execution in mission mode along with innovation along the way. For e.g. converting a class into an interactive smart class with just a TV is a frugal idea of implementing NIPUN in every classroom within a year. Moreover, by starting from the bottom we can cultivate and navigate the interests of a child in STEM or subjects of their choice from early stages and help them draw a successful career.
We all boast how a toddler is able to operate a smartphone. Mobile phones with plethora of videos, songs, cartoons, and everything interesting is what children are glued to. We should take the cue and provide our children a frugal device to own, a Pocket School! Animated stories, read along recordings, digital animated textbook lessons, gamified assessments, and so much more can only make our children learn in a personalized manner, at their own pace, and without peer pressure. And yes, digital literacy happens for free! So clearly the focus on Digital Literacy is a must.
We need to train our youth to filter, store and analyse the formidable amount of data generated daily on the internet, hence Data Literacy is critical. Complex and opaque scenarios are rendered comprehensible and transparent once the data has been tamed. Going forward, integrated curriculum will form a strong foundation to help develop data literacy among children as individuals who will be required to exercise such skills throughout life.
The future of work is not here, but the generation that will immerse in it is, and it is ready to start its education. We should proactively and innovatively heed to the signs. The time to prepare for this imminent and prescient future is here where the human mind is engaged differently and the society and its way of life interlaced with technology will change irreversibly. If we do not start creating a new and reimagined education system today, the future will be lost to a majority of our children as well as to our nation. Period.
(The writer is Founder Chairman Sampark Foundation & Former Vice Chairman and CEO, )
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