Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world
– Nelson Mandela
As we move towards an era which no longer resonates with the needs and wants of the past century, and how education and schooling were set up and fine tuned to function for that time period, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions as to why we are still holding on to, and hardly seem to reinvent the conventional schooling system which was, and is, primarily designed for the Industrial Revolution back in the 1800s.
With computing power and smartphones now omnipresent, and with the advent and application of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, in the coming decades; we are looking at a future where most humans with the help of machines, or machines independently, should be able to not just reasonably replicate, but be able to take over any job which requires repetition and/ or some basic narrow reasoning or understanding (hint : set of rules) to get by, with much more proficiency than what human beings can currently achieve.
If you have spent time in India, chances are you would be aware that India is poised to have world’s youngest work force in the coming decade. Whilst some of us can debate on whether this phenomenon will fructify into a Demographic Dividend, or a Demographic Challenge nightmare; we can more or less agree on the fact that for anything good to happen, a good chunk of this energy needs to be channeled into the right places, resulting in meaningful learning, meaningful work and a meaningful purpose for peoples lives.
Whilst it is difficult to ascertain the future, much less predict it, it would serve us and the next generations well to reconsider how we have been approaching education as a whole over the decades, in order to solve some part of the opportunity and challenge that lies ahead.
1. Education and the Government
Public education is our greatest pathway to opportunity in America. So we need to invest in and strengthen our public universities today, and for generations to come.
– Michelle Obama
In 2018, the world saw a Billionaire being created every 2 days. When we realize that 82% of the wealth created went to the top 1%, whilst the bottom 50% of the global population bagged less than 1% of the total wealth created during the same time period in 2016-18, the economic and income inequality we are witnessing, is astounding to say the least.
With growing inequality comes growing concerns of restlessness amongst unemployed and unskilled youth, which only leads to further concerns as to how the civil society will cope with a scenario where this gap only grows wider with advances in technology.
When we think of the role of quality education made accessible to more and more people, the Government can play a crucial role with respect to investments being made in the Systems and Infrastructure which reach common people at scale. I share this, not from a point of impractical idealism, but from the standpoint of an Indian Citizen who has personally seen how 1.6+ Mn school children are benefiting from the same in New Delhi, India.
With the right kind of investments made in Education at such a large scale, which hardly any private enterprise might be able to commit and deliver to, within the short time spans that we have at hand, we can expect some quota of change to come about with respect to how students benefit from education, and approach life as a whole.
2. Channel Curiosity
Develop into a lifelong self-learner through voracious reading; cultivate curiosity and strive to become a little wiser every day
True education is what truly fuels, accelerates and grows the mind, and not one which is done for the sake of certificates and degrees. When young human minds are geared towards problem solving with no limitations from the outside world, it’s truly incredible what all is made possible.
The beauty of continuous, true learning coupled with curiosity and interest, is that the mind approaches each new information in context to what one already knows and hence the permutations and combinations towards application for problem solving become manifold when you also factor in the specific gifts of the individuals.
This is one of the reasons why I believe that no two minds are seeing the same thing at any given point in time, simply because how individual minds perceive, understand and organize any new information ties in to all the learning, knowledge and experiences which have come in for them before, uniquely.
3. Work with Power Distance Index (PDI)
Moral authority comes from following universal and timeless principles like honesty, integrity, treating people with respect.
– Stephen Covey
Whilst working on all things education, one must also bear in mind environmental factors such as the Power Distance Index (PDI), amongst 5 other Dimensions of National Culture put forth by organizational behaviour genius Geert Hofstede, when working towards accelerating collaboration and questioning status quo, to bring about greater collective change.
With India having a relatively high PDI of 77, educating the children would need to go beyond current subjects, to ensure we also teach them how to work and collaborate with authority figures, question underlying assumptions as also learn to speak up for themselves. With the current scale of manufactured (fake/ incorrect) information online and offline, added to advances in artificial intelligence which includes technology such as Deepfake, one can no longer trust and consume information or data as is. A curious mind which is empowered to ask questions and interact with authority across levels would bode well for nations across the globe.
Children should also be encouraged to learn to approach, as also be approachable, collaborate with as also disagree with others respectfully and without resentment, without giving in to peer pressure to follow the herd, but instead learn to listen to, and act in accordance with their own moral compasses.
4. Work on the Tough Problems
We all have ability. The difference is how we use it.
– Charlotte Whitton
As much as the learning opportunities abound in a digital era where almost no public information stays inaccessible owing to geography or class, and anyone with a will and access to internet can potentially learn almost anything that’s out there, we must also concede that the next generations also face a good number of challenges to face and conquer.
Challenges abound in reskilling for a world which the conventional schooling system no longer prepares students for, as we also look at existential threats such as Global Warming and Climate Change, Terrorism, Hate Politics, Artificial General Intelligence (A.G.I.), Deepfake and other fake information, Racism, Unemployment, Inequalities in Gender Gap, Caste, Creed, Economic and Income, amongst other issues, which continue to persist.
When educating young minds purposefully, it would serve everyone well to prepare them such that they become mindfully aware of, and are able to hopefully take on some of these challenges in their lifetime, if not ours. What use is an education, if one cannot apply the same?
5. Work on Happiness
When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.
– John Lennon
We are increasingly moving into a world where the pace of change will displace more people from their current occupations, in a much shorter period, than anytime ever before in history. Whilst it is difficult to ascertain the future, much less predict it, there might be a shift in terms of how humans perceive work altogether, and as to how they tie in work into their life purpose and well being in the long run.
Though there are some experiments with Universal Basic Income (UBI) and National Basic Income in some regions and geographies, how this works out in the long run is yet to be seen and better understood. What cannot be undermined, however, is the ability of humans as a species to have made progress over centuries and time periods (despite many challenges), because of their ability to understand, negotiate and basically cooperate with each other to achieve mutual goals.
One of the ways to achieve that kind of collaboration is to be able to manage and work beyond negative emotions such as anger, hatred and jealousy. When values such as mutual respect, understanding, integrity, kindness, respecting differences and disagreeing respectfully become part of a value based learning, people not only get along with each other better, but are also able to collaborate and work together to achieve greater goals, leading to more harmony and greater progress.
Practicing and learning to be at peace inside, and in more control of your emotional states and responses is a good power to have, regardless of which time and age one might be born into.
6. Build a Growth Mindset
The more you practice tolerating discomfort, the more confidence you’ll gain in your ability to accept new challenges.
– Amy Morin
An education entails a mix of both external and internal gentle nudging of a child/ individual, towards channeling their inner curiosity and learning. How the early abilities and curiosity stick or don’t stick towards the later part of one’s life can be attributed in part, to how they perceive and believe in their individual learning abilities and capabilities.
Whilst training for 10,000 hours to become good at anything sounds like good advice, better advice would be deliberate practice to train mindfully, focussing on improvement and where one might be erring during each training, to drastically cut down the time taken to master something.
How one treats and responds to temporary setbacks and obstacles along the way has a profound impact with respect to how much of their potential they might end up tapping in. Living at the edges of one’s comfort zones, with a growth mindset, helps one tap into more of what lies inside, and grow more into the potential and individual gifts, which we all uniquely carry inside.
Character is built, but by summiting one mountain at a time. Encourage and rally more and more individuals to go, and climb those mountains.
Cheers & Best, Monce