With technology rapidly changing our economic, cultural and social realities, the question of how to prepare the younger, and even the current, generation for the fourth industrial revolution has been a pressing issue for contemporary higher education.
“How do we educate for the 4th Industrial Revolution? Are our education systems and programmes relevant to the Fourth industrial revolution? And if not, how do we reconstruct our education systems so that they are?” these were the sentiments shared during the Education Conversations Series on Tuesday, 24 July 2018, at UJ’s Soweto campus.
Facilitated by radio and television entrepreneur, Masechaba Ndlovu, the event unpacked how South Africa can prepare the education system for the fourth industrial revolution and contained presentations by Dr Andile Mtotywa, co-founder and Director of Alchemy Hub; Dr Caroline Long, Professor: Department of Childhood Education and Ms Sonqoba Maseko, Chief Operations Officer at Sifiso Learning Group.
“It is increasingly clear that the rapid development of technology has changed everyone’s economic, social and cultural status quo- which proves that 4.0 is a reality,” said Dr Mtotywa.
The 4th Industrial Revolution is said to be ushered in by advancements in robotics, virtual reality, cloud technology, big data, artificial intelligence, the internet of things and other technologies. It is characterised by the fusion of technologies and the blurring of the lines between the physical, digital and biological aspects of life.
Also speaking was Dr Caroline Long, pointing out that to prepare to take advantage of what 4.0 brings along, societies must redouble their efforts in educating the workforce of the future. “They can do this by addressing the need for continued and improved training in science, technology and mathematics subjects. It is these subjects that will lay the foundation of prosperity during the fourth industrial revolution.”
“Science and mathematics provide answers to so many of the fundamental questions of nature and enable citizens to gain a better understanding of the world around them,” explained Dr Long.
The last speaker, Sonqoba Maseko emphasised that the education sector needs to look at how classrooms are attempting to adapt to the 4th Industrial Revolution and the tools they are using or considering. “There is a need to focus on ICT and future technologies, teacher education and lifelong learning for an adaptable and flexible education system.”
The exciting Education Conversations continued zooming in on the connections and disconnections in the education value chain which will influence success during the 4th Industrial Revolution. The first instalment in April saw a passionate debate by UJ students and other members of the public, following presentations by National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) CEO, Godwin Khosa, and Dr Jacqueline Bachelor from UJ. Many agreed that Africa should develop and lead its own context-specific revolution instead of blindly jumping onto the bandwagon.
The Education Conversations is an initiative by the Faculty of Education and Kagiso Trust aimed at encouraging the education stakeholders, especially our students, teachers and both ministries of education to talk and create space for debates and discussions through which diverse voices can be heard focusing on what works and how to collectively advance the agenda for an improved and performing public education system.