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The G Trends to consider in education

Education has been getting a lot of criticism for not fulfilling its purpose. Some even claiming, that schools are not preparing our children to the world of work and are ‘being out of touch of industry and skills demand’.

For education to fulfil its mission, I believe we need to look ahead at trends and respond to the skills and talent required. Keep renovating our curriculum and incorporate soft skills and mental coping tools.

I’ve categorized Some of the trends to consider in education policies and curriculum to the five Gs:

  1. Green economy
  2. Gender
  3. Generation (technology progress)
  4. Gaming
  5. Hygiene physical and mental

Lockdown and work from a home situation caused a significant reduction in usage of transportation and the plummet in petrol prices. This raised the awareness of the Green economy.

According to the Economist, (September 2020), a return to the “old world” post covid19 is unlikely. ‘Power in the 21st Century’ article, claims that as the public, governments and investors wake up to climate change, the clean – energy industry is gaining momentum.  As an overview of the new energy system emerges, we have to examine the implications of education and skills development. Taking into consideration, professions related to renewable energy, such as solar and wind power.

In the ORT network, there are schools which incorporate programmes preparing youth towards this transformation. For example, Lyce’e ORT Strasbourg, offers a course to ensure students develop skills in analyzing and creating technical solutions to deal with issues related to energy, the energy efficiency of systems and their effect on the environment.

Gender biases and inequality have been brought into public attention in various ways, most recently with the #metoo movement.

An interesting finding by NICD-CRAM,(panel survey of South Africans tracking the impact of COVID-19), showed that women were disproportionally affected by the Covid19 crisis. They were more likely than men to lose their jobs, as well as taking a greater share of the additional child care as a result of school closure due to lockdown.

Over the years data has shown that globally, women are paid relatively less than men. I believe that to alter this inequality, we need to consider our curriculum and ways to raise awareness amongst our youth, from earlier on in their schools and career path. At ORT SA, we run coding programmes promoting female participation and raising awareness to IT professions not “only as a profession for male”.

The progress of technology and 5G brought up the advance in generation technologies widening the digital gap even further.
How far technology can take us, can be left to our imagination and the innovators and dreamers amongst us. The more technology evolves, the more the gap between disadvantaged communities to more privileged ones expands. With poor infrastructure, lack of resources and lack of knowledge contributing to this growing gap. 

ORT2Connect campaign calls on people to donate their second hand, unused devices to communities in need.

The ORT Digital Ready for work programme aims to equip the unemployed youth with digital skills required for the digitized workplace. Starting with digital skills (including collaboration skills) from an early stage at school will ensure the youth is equipped with and ready for the ever-changing world of jobs.

Global shutdown and people staying at hone increased the gaming industry. Some say that ‘The Games industry is now bigger than the movie industry worldwide’.  

The available jobs in this industry require various professions; Game designers, animators, writers, video game testers, software developers, computer programmers, audio engineer’s interpreters and translators as well as a technical support specialist. Research shows that to get youth into these professions an early intervention and education needs to be incorporated from an early stage.

Upskilling youth from schooling level, one can ensure that these youth will have a high likelihood of being employable. Online gaming is not for entertainment solely and can be used for educational purposes, gamification in the workplace and social change.

The pandemic has impacted the way we watch our hygiene behavior. In education, the focus has been on physical hygiene, ensuring kids adhere to washing their hands and keeping to healthy manners.

However, increasingly, we realize the importance of keeping checks with the kids’ mental health.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, more than 25% of teens ages 13-18 will experience any anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. This seems to be a global phenomenon and the importance of mental health and wellbeing in schools is moreover about developing coping strategies and providing tools.

COVID-19 has been a trigger to transformation in different sectors and industries. The education and skills development sector need to have a discussion on how we adapt and transform the offering so not to become redundant and affronted.

Insight from Business Day Focus 4.0

The Business Day Focus 4.0 Conference held at the beginning of March this year, aimed at exploring the implications of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) on our economy and society.
The presence of leading Hi-tech companies’ CEOs as keynote speakers and in panel discussions illustrated the importance of this topic to the business world.

Below are my three main takes from the conference:

1. It is not a matter of “if” but a matter of “when” we adapt to the 4IR

According to MD Tech Accenture, Kirstan Sita, 85% of South African companies are vulnerable to future disruption (Accenture research).
One of the reasons companies fail is if they missed, or not responded fast enough, to changes in the market (Prof Bran Armstrong, Wits Business School). The more we delay our adopting to changes, the more we widen the gap.
The challenges of poor infrastructure development and the need for cities to work collaboratively towards the creation of smart cities was alerted by Liquid Telecom CEO Reshaad Sha.
It was reiterated that government has to elevate infrastructure as high priority and enable connectivity (survival need) in an equal distributed manner.

2. Technology is neutral. It is what we do with it that matters

Alison Jacobson from the Field Institute, argued that before looking at digital strategy of the business one needs to look at the business strategy and the specific needs of the business through the customers’ needs. “Do you understand your customers? Only then deploy the technology”. Competitiveness in the market and creating the competitive advantage has to be customer-centric.
Devina Maharaj from Digital Investec Bank recommended “Understand the needs first, than plug the gap with the relevant tech solution”.
According to Prof Brian, there are many reasons to automate. Machines have many advantages over human being. If the first and second industrial revolutions were about ‘machines enhancing power’ the third and fourth industrial revolutions are about ‘machines enhancing human brain power’. We need to stay alert in the wake of the ‘digital vortex’ upon us and be ahead of it.

3. Range of skills are needed for the future workforce

Assaf Luxembourg, Business Development Consultant from Israel, noted that ‘technology changes fast, but culture changes are slower’. He then recommended that each individual see himself/ herself as a ‘business unit’, as the ‘CEO of themselves’ and seek to promote oneself. Adjusting to the dynamic nature of the market he says, is to think as entrepreneur and not as employee (even if you are one).
Dr Tashmia Ismail-Saville, CEO of YES, said that tech skills can be easily taught, the need is to create mechanisms to ensure that resources are available to the youth in all communities as in some of them access is limited.
The real skill needed to adjust to 4IR as noted by Alison are the abilities to identify the problem and use critical problem solving and team work.
We should ask, ‘how do we become the best version of ourselves by using technology’ and plan for our career to ensure relevance for the future.

Be ahead of the 'Digital Vortex'
Be ahead of the ‘Digital Vortex’

A Model of Lesson Study in Singapore

The Lesson Study portrayed in the following video was presented to representatives from South Africa by Peggy Foo, MCI at Evergreen Primary School in Singapore

Lesson Studies are used as a Professional Development Tool. Teachers use this tool to engage in and to systematically examine and reflect on their teaching

Lesson Study is:

  1. 1.       Teacher driven
  2. 2.       Job embedded
  3. 3.       Collaborative learning

Teachers identify the research theme which will be based on the school’s vision. Once the research theme has been identified, the lesson plan is designed and a research lesson conducted. Research lesson is conducted by the research teacher, observers can be internal and external teachers and experts who adhere to observation protocol (not to communicate with pupils, with fellow observers, observe few pupils closely, take detailed notes etc)

In post lesson observation, recapping of the research theme and research lesson are conducted. Comments from observers from lesson study plan teams and from other experts are all taken and a summary is done.

In the research lesson conducted in Evergreen Primary School, the research theme is “thinking and self directed learners”. The aim of research is to identify principles/factors for promoting thinking.

The research lesson was on fractions conducted with a Grade 2 class. It was an interesting lesson conducted using a cake to illustrate whole, halves and quarters.  The recap on terms was followed by the teacher referring to a fraction as part/piece, thereafter putting in order fractions from greatest to smallest and vice versa. Pupils working in pairs were using manipulatives to do the worksheets.

In post observation sessions, the following comments from observes were reflected:

1.       The importance of the use of good questions to check misconception (if 4 is bigger than 2, how come half is bigger than quarter?)

2.       Examine carefully, the use and types of manipulatives.

3.       When using real life examples such as the cake – to utilise it further and in the young group tell stories to probe questions to check prior learning

4.       When group work is required, ensure paired pupils work together nicely without being overtaken by dominant character

5.       Pupils completed work quite quick, which may imply that worksheets were too easy for them. To promote thinking, it may have been advisable to remove manipulatives for the last two questions in the worksheets.

I like the idea of Lesson Study as a PD Tool. I think it is a great way to reflect on any teaching. Though for it to be effective, it has to be run by subject and teaching experts.