What is the purpose of education today? This is a topic that Verizon’s CEO, Hans Vestberg, discussed in depth in a recent article, and it’s also something I discussed in a recent conversation in New York. As we approach the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and technology continues to play imperative roles in every aspect of daily life, it is important to address our approach to education.
By 2023, 77 percent of jobs in the U.S. will require some degree of technology skills. Research shows that as many as two in three children entering elementary school will not have the skills required to get a job when they graduate. It is critical that we approach education with a look at the skills that will be needed by the future workforce – a workforce that will be mobile, flexible, fast paced and driven by a digital economy. Yet many educators, especially those in under resourced communities, are stuck operating within curriculums and with tools that were developed decades ago, and are not focused on the skills that the digital world requires. At the pace technology is moving, the tools students need include not only computing and basic tech skills, but also design thinking, coding, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
When Hans discusses education, he focuses on three main purposes:
- To deliver the STEM skills that the digital economy requires;
- To instill the civic and ethical understanding that will allow human beings to wield these powerful technologies with wisdom, perspective and regard for the wellbeing of others;
- To understand that digital learning never ends and to find creative and compelling ways to meet these first two needs across a greater range of ages and life stages than has traditionally been the case in our education systems.
Over recent years, we’ve seen tremendous advances when it comes to STEM, with industry leaders joining forces with educators to deliver everything from coding clubs to science competitions. Verizon is also focused in this space – our Verizon Innovative Learning program provides free connectivity, free devices and interactive curriculum training to help close the digital divide.
The second piece is even trickier. With education budgets becoming tighter, choirs, orchestras, drama, art, and other clubs are often the first areas to be cut when a belt needs to be tightened. Yet these offer opportunities for our young people to understand the value of teamwork, build confidence, support each other and gain a different perspective on the world in which they live.
Hans’ suggestion is simple: If we are going to be successful in preparing our students for a digital world, we need an integrated approach to education, one that melds the sciences and humanities.
This means government needs to look at education strategies in the context of economic and industrial strategies, and look at education funding holistically, including how we train teachers to ensure the brightest minds are drawn to the profession. We then need to arm teachers with access to technology and training to ensure they stay connected and engaged both in and out of the classroom. This is an imperative part of student success.
We also need education to be lifelong. The world is changing at too rapid a pace for lessons to stop at 18 or 21 … or even 55. We must ensure employees continue to learn throughout their career, and also prioritize development, mentorship and skill building.
Most importantly, we need our students to be empowered to think differently. We have to encourage their ideas, foster their curiosity and ensure they dream big. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is here and the future of education is now. I’m looking forward to the results of the discussions on this topic at the Xynteo Exchange.
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