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“We need to completely reimagine education”

Updated on 20 October 2021
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Richa Pandey
13 min read 5 views
Updated on 20 October 2021

Are traditional approaches to education still relevant in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Fred Swaniker, co-founder of the African Leadership Academy and African Leadership University, doesn’t think so. Read on to learn more about the crucial role of learning in the 21st century and why education systems need to be redesigned to meet the challenges of a highly uncertain future.

Roy Morrison: With the pace of change accelerating in the 21stcentury, a key requirement to thrive is lifelong learning and the ability to acquire new skills quickly. How can “learning to learn” and the ability to be continually reinventing oneself be fostered in children from a young age?

Fred Swaniker: It starts with a recognition amongst all educators that the world is changing. To prepare people for the future, you need to design an education system that is forward-looking and not backward-looking.

In today’s world of artificial intelligencerobotics and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, you have to prepare people for uncertainty and promote agility and adaptability.

This requires a reorientation all the way from early childhood education to primary school to university education. It means encouraging flexibility rather than specialization. It requires training and retraining teachers, as well as redesigning education systems and curricula.

“Instead of learning to memorize facts and figures, students need to ‘learn how to learn’ and how to solve problems.”

We need to completely reimagine education. Instead of learning to memorize facts and figures, students need to “learn how to learn” and how to solve problems. And they should be allowed to learn independently. Changes are needed at every level. You have to infuse things like entrepreneurship into the curriculum because with the disruption that’s going on, many people are going to have to create their own jobs.

We may end up in a world in which people are more likely to be autonomous contractors than to have a secure job lasting for a lifetime. We need to completely reframe the system of education based on where the world is going, instead of continuing to do the same thing over and over again.

RM: In your talk Reimagining University, you talk about how most of today’s education model is broken, given the accelerating speed of change. How can schools and universities remain relevant in this landscape?

FS: I think it requires breaking down the barriers that exist between education and the real world. We should bring the working world into education a lot earlier and take education into the working world.

Education used to be a one-shot game, now it has to be a lifelong game. You don’t just get educated once. You need to go in-between learning and work. You have to bring professionals into the classroom to teach. You have to work on projects for real organizations from the beginning, and you have to go out into the environment, into communities. You have to understand the real problems that people are facing so you can shape your learning around those problems rather than just look at a textbook.

“We should bring the working world into education a lot earlier and take education into the working world.”


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