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Changes Required In India’s Schooling System To Empower Students With Relevant Skills

Jobs are expected to disappear and on the other hand, whichever jobs remain will require a skill-set that is different from what today’s education system is producing.

Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma

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The world is changing rapidly and the jobs of tomorrow will require a completely different mindset and skill-set. According to estimates from the OECD, large shares of jobs are at risk to be lost to automation. About 14% of jobs are expected to be lost to automation and about 32% of jobs will change significantly. To further cast this prediction in stone, the World Economic Forum stated that the division of labour (as a share of hours spent) in 2018 stood at around 71:29 (human: machine). This ratio is set to change by 2022 where it is expected to be 48:52. Imagine what the ratio could be in 2030, by the time our children are ready to join the workforce?

The World Economic Forum also published its list of skills required in 2022 which included creativity, originality, initiative, innovation, analytical thinking and active learning. Some of the skills whose demand is expected to fall are memory, auditory, spatial abilities, reading, writing, math and manual dexterity. A simple look at the above skills shows that the skills traditionally taught in schools are getting redundant while skills that are not taught in schools will be at a premium. According to estimates, the skills shortage could put over US$450 billion worth of manufacturing GDP at risk by 2028 alone! 

On one hand, jobs are expected to disappear and on the other hand, whichever jobs remain will require a skill-set that is different from what today’s education system is producing. What does this mean for the future generation? Is the education system evolving to meet the needs of tomorrow? What should parents do to ensure their children learn the skills that will be required when they become a part of tomorrow’s workforce?

Governments around the world are taking note and making significant changes to their education policies. OECD has come up with a new learning framework for the year 2030 that is being shared and adopted by several developed nations.  SAT exam has evolved over the past few years. It now looks to evaluate students in skills that will be more relevant at their colleges. Over 1000 colleges in the United States have decided to not consider SAT scores at all, and amongst them is the famous University of Chicago, USA.  A 2014 study, published by the scientific journal PNAS, found that students in classes with traditional lecturing were 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in environments with active learning. 

According to the World Bank, the governments of some countries have already undertaken several progressive reforms that have worked remarkably. Korea: Successfully leveraged the private sector to develop relevant skills and has been at the top of the global PISA test rankings. Vietnam: PISA results in 2012 and 2015 shocked the world.  A low-income country surpassed most OECD countries.   Assessments and evaluations confirm that Vietnam’s primary schools are very productive: “Vietnamese students learned a similar amount per year at the simplest tasks (e.g., addition and subtraction) but much more in terms of applying these to more complex tasks (e.g., multiplication, division and applied problems)” compared to other countries. Columbia: Its innovative education model Escuela Nueva is transforming schools not only in Columbia but also in other parts of the world, thanks to support by the World Bank. “Creativity and problem-solving skills, along with values of sharing and community, need to be nurtured early,” said Suhas Parandekar, Senior Economist, Human Development Sector, The World Bank

Employers requiring different and enhanced skills are putting positive pressure on Universities and colleges around the world. The tech sector in the United States, Europe, China and India is driving the economies and providing the most number of jobs. Tech skills such as artificial intelligence, business intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity and cloud computing are in great demand. Educational institutes are responding to the demand and changing the curriculum so they can meet the needs of the changing world. 

The demand for certain skills is expected to surge astronomically over time and since substantive brain development takes place during school years, the greatest changes need to be at the school level. Progressive schools around the world are responding with innovative teaching methodologies. These include problem-based learning, project-based learning, experiential learning, inquiry-based learning and expeditionary learning. These methodologies are based on the principles of design thinking where the children learn by asking the right questions and by applying their learning. The learning cycle closely resembles how, after graduation, they will eventually operate in the real world. The focus is equally on skill development as it is on learning content.

Progressive schools around the world have become great agents of change. They are ‘followed’ by large numbers of education entrepreneurs, educators, policymakers and documentary makers who visit these schools wanting to adopt and spread similar methods in their own ecosystems. A remarkable chain of project-based learning schools in San Diego, California is known as High Tech High are visited annually by over 2500 such visitors. All of them are flocking to see how this innovation is transforming the way we teach and learn. For his exemplary work in developing real-world skills through this unique methodology, their Founder & CEO Larry Rosenstock is the 2019 WISE prize for education laureate. 

In India too, progressive teaching methodologies such as problem-based learning (PBL), inquiry-based learning and experiential learning are being adopted by the more progressive schools. Via these methodologies, innovative schools are developing skills that will be needed in 2030.  PBL follows a unique learning cycle where learning begins first by getting the child ‘in the zone’ by asking interesting questions or engaging in an activity that the child is interested in. Once the child’s attention is captured the child is asked probing questions and taken to the ream of ‘deep thinking’. The next step is for the child or a group of children to do research in order to answer the question. This could include a field trip, an online resource, an interview or a textbook. The learning occurs as the child creating an actual product to answer the question or is solving the initial problem. The non-negotiable is that the final product or the solution must benefit the greater community. The final step is to reflect on how each step was done and how it could have been done better. It is a 360-degree approach as to how the individual or groups of individuals partook and performed in the learning experience. In this way, the content is learnt and curriculum is also covered. The most powerful aspects of this type of learning are the development of the love of learning and real-world skills. It is indeed a powerful way to give our children an enormous edge that will remain with them all through their lives. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Sandy Hooda

The author is Co-Founder, Vega Schools

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