Rethinking Education in a Changing World

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~By Nalini Bhattar

With the world passing more years and more decades, adapting and advancing in new technologies one question always pops up in mind i.e. ‘what will the world look like in the future?’. And the answer of it splits analysts and intellectuals into two groups as advances in technology either hold promise of enabling increases in productivity that will give us more comfort than present or will end the decent work for most of the population and thus, increase inequality.

Skills of an individual and advances in technology plays an important role in determining the future. With mechanisation, the labour market has been hollowed leaving people either with no jobs or with low-wage jobs in comparison to their skills or ability. A  study by the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that by 2020, approximately 83 million high- and middle-skilled jobs will go unfilled because employers looking to hire in developed and developing countries will not find people with the necessary skills.

Demand for new approaches to education is needed from individual future employment need to complex global challenges. Throughout history, every society has grappled with how to best educate and prepare its young people for the world they will face. From hunter-gatherers  thousands of year ago who had to impart vast amounts of knowledge about plants, animals, and relations between tribes to their youth, to craftsmen who taught trades through apprenticeships that defined education for many young men in the 18th and 19th centuries, humans have adapted education to meet the needs and challenges of the time.

Our future world and challenges we predict in it calls for education that equip every individual with appropriate and conquering set of skills. Some skills, such as academic ones, are important but not sufficient to deal with unwarning changes, calamities and problems.

As Kathy Hirsh-Paek, author of BECOMING BRILLIANT: WHAT SCIENCE TELLS US ABOUT RAISING SUCCESSFUL CHILDREN, says:
“What we do with little kids today, will matter in 20 days. If you don’t get it right, you will have an unlivable environment. That’s the crisis I see.”

The most important problem lies in the opportunity to engage in experiences, which would enhance our skills, in and out of school that do promote our skills are too often unequally distributed between rich and poorer children, making deep inequalities.

We need to redefine the basics to include the full breath of academic and non-academic skills that all children, rich and poor alike need.

The world around us has radically transformed within the past couple of weeks and months into a science-fiction movie. It is Coronavirus – a virus, which is our own creation in the age of “Anthropocene”. Among many problems such as economic, health, employment and etc another problem arises during this time of Corona was academic one, how to start classes, complete pending syllabus and conduct remaining and coming exams. For this, most engineering, technical and management institutes, as well as many private educational institutions in India, were quick to transition to online teaching and learning. Modernity has given us many things. It has activated our physical and vital energy; it has sharpened the power of the intellect; and it has given us ‘comforts’. Online teaching and learning helped teachers, learners and academic institutions to go back to their normal life and routine. But a question now arises, if this privilege of online classes is accessible by all or not. The transition from on-campus to online teaching and learning is not easy.

E-learning is not without faults. While it is obvious, technical problems are one of the main stumbling blocks of online training. Mostly there are compatibility issues with operating systems, browsers and smartphones. While virtual classes work on the assumption that every student has a smartphone, laptop, fast access to the internet and reliable electricity connections. Due to this such students who are not privileged enough lack behind their privileged classmates. Thus, it adds societal pressure on them and develops more disparity between learners of different economic strata. Another problem is many parents are skeptical as they see the additional screen time that this requires as a bad thing.

The e-learning format offers a teaching-learning process with great flexibility, courses can take place when and where they like. Such flexibility often results in inaction. The best way to learn something is by practicing it, by practicing we experience things and are able to internalise them. However, due to online courses this part gets overlooked and focuses solely on theoretical content and lessons. As a result, the learner could not practice and the learning process does not reach its full potential.

With these unfavorable points, online classes give less effectiveness. In this time it is really important to derive a meaning of existence in the period of existential and ontological uncertainty. Because with theoretical knowledge and studying just for the sake of passing exams or for the sake of continuation of academic session, we are not going to and ,even, we can not make any change in the time of such calamities. Hence, when a crisis of this kind confronts us, we are terribly shaken, we fail to go beyond masks and sanitizers.

Thus,  we are needed to make a choice: should we continue with the kind of education that only makes us ‘logical’? Or should we learn some deep lessons from the present crisis, and redefine education to undertake a new journey.

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