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GLOBAL EDUCATION: THE FUTURE
OF LEARNING AND THE FOURTH
INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION​

It is widely accepted that we are at the dawn of another industrial revolution, or as some suggest, already well into one. A recent global study involving nearly 9,000 young people from developed and developing nations has highlighted some startling beliefs about new technologies and their effect on education and job prospects.

Arguably this fourth industrial revolution, like the three before it, has evolved from advancements in new technologies - advancements that have the power to recompose entire economies and societies, and ultimately the way we live. 

What differentiates this epoch from the last (the third, ‘digital’ revolution which began with the development of the computer in the late 1960s) is that it is about much more than technology becoming part of daily life. Instead, it is about technology’s power to blend the physical world with the cyber systems we already surround ourselves with. In fact, we have already seen this with the emergence of 3D printing and early forms of artificial intelligence.  

Findings from the study, conducted by consulting firm Infosys, have been published in the report. The report involved a thousand participants from countries including Australia, the United States, Germany, France, Britain, India and China.

MAJOR POINTS TO COME OUT OF THE STUDY INCLUDE:

  • young people were optimistic about challenges in the future
  • developing nations are more confident in their readiness for the future than developed ones
  • technological skills correlate with young people’s confidence in their future careers
  • flexible skills and soft skills will be prerequisites for future careers.
“Young students need to understand that education alone should not be expected to fully prepare them for a job, because the skills they need to be successful in their work will continually change as industries transform. Their success, therefore, will depend on their ability to learn and they must have a mindset of learning for life.”

— Vandana Sikka, Chairperson, Infosys Foundation USA

MOST IMPORTANTLY FOR THOSE OF US IN EDUCATION

Despite a generally positive view, a large portion of those within the study questioned their readiness for work post schooling. Close to 50 per cent of respondents in the USA and Australia felt that their education did not adequately prepare them for their careers. Tying in with this, respondents signalled that they expected on-the-job training to make up for this but it had not eventuated as they had hoped.

Also underlined was the idea that students everywhere will need a flexible skill set to be able to adapt to the changes in the labour market. Unsurprisingly, the report indicated that students saw themselves as lifelong learners and felt that their education should not end as they entered the workforce.

SO, WHERE TO FROM HERE?

Leadership is needed to steer developed markets towards quality educational pathways for young people. The consensus that students do not feel job ready cannot be ignored and updates to education policy should be made to reflect this. Workplaces should also do what they can to train new staff in a way that meets expectations.

The idea that all students are lifelong learners should be celebrated and encouraged. This mindset is critical for occupational success.

The importance of soft skills development also cannot be overlooked. A joint effort by the education system and private business is needed to ensure students are equipped with interpersonal skills that are crucial for the modern workplace. This is especially important for the future integration of workplace artificial intelligence which will likely be controlled by human emotional responses. 

Much more needs to be done to help future generations grow the skills needed for career success. Only time will tell if we have done enough.

James Yorston is a leadership expert with a particular interest in professional development, group dynamics, culture change and the application of emotional and behavioural intelligence in the workplace.

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