Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

January 31, 2019

Education for the future


January 31, 2019

Thought leaders at top-ranking global institutions are producing commentaries and papers on the state of learning in the world. One common and serious concern raised from different parts of the globe is about the widening mismatch between learning outcomes from schooling systems across the world and skill requirements for productive lives in the future, created after 4th generation industrial disruptions.

This is being termed as the ‘global learning crisis’, mainly triggered by the traditional model of schooling where teachers teach uniform content and students are assessed using standardised tests. Futurists are making the case for using new methods and technologies in education for creating a personalised learning experience for everyone in the digital space.

Using traditional teachers for customised teaching for each learner is beyond the affordability limits of even the richest nations. Hence, technology solutions are being explored and developed for a shift from uniform teaching – inherently un-adaptive to the ability level, potential and particular needs of diverse learners – to customised learning.

The foreseeable game-changer seems to be the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in creating an optimal learning experience for each learner in accordance with their abilities, aptitude and backgrounds. Therefore, thought leaders are concertedly drawing policy attention towards the urgency to invest in AI to boost adaptive learning.

In Pakistan, though, the considerations for the education system are different. Our education system is still struggling to enrol 24 million documented out-of-school children. Under immense pressure to meet the constitutional obligation for the Right to Education Act and for global commitments, putting all children in school is the top priority of the government. However, when assessed for learning outcomes, the majority of in-school learners are not significantly doing better than those out of school.

Filling students in over-crowded and multi-grade primary classes can give children their right to be in a classroom – which is only a requisite for their right to ‘education’. The low quality of learning in schools still remains to be an insurmountable challenge. Even 100 percent children enrolled for low-quality learning will not signify any meaningful change in the lives of students, their communities and society overall.

For places like Pakistan, where education systems are still grappling with issues of access, adoption of digital technologies and Artificial Intelligence for personalised learning may seem a far cry. This is particularly true if educational improvement is taken as a linear process, moving from improved access to ensured quality and then to technology adoption. On the contrary, this process is not linear in reality. Technology can precede and tackle issues of access, quality and adaptive learning simultaneously.

Every cycle of the industrial revolution starts with a steep upward loop of progress powered by the ground-breaking technology of the period. The next loop of progress has opened up for taking those upward in the cycle of human progress who have foresight and skills to ride the wave. While looking inwards on the issues of the education system in Pakistan, the government should look outwards and forwards for creating equality of opportunity for better futures and access to comparable quality education for all. Using the power of far-reaching digital platforms, harnessing the potential of many local education technology start-ups, stepping up youth workforce development in the field of AI and unleashing the creative instincts of young learners can do wonders.

The first condition for moving towards technology-assisted education will be a shift in the mindset of policymakers and managers in the public education systems. One can well imagine the worries of education policymakers, decision-makers, managers and teachers who have done things on a pattern set over the last few centuries. However, there should be no apprehension about the readiness of young children and enthusiasm of the youth for riding the wave of change. They are born in different times and are ready to embrace a fast-changing world.

The immense exposure of the ‘digital age’ has prepared and equipped them to convert their challenges into opportunities. All they need is a well-supported entry and positive direction. Time will then take its course. The only difference we can make is ensuring conditions in which our future generations emerge as successful, beneficial human beings with sharp minds and hearts filled with the gifts of love and care.

Second, decision-makers will have to realise and acknowledge that the government alone cannot shoulder this huge responsibility nor can the relevance of other stakeholders be ignored. While the overall policy directions from the federal government are indispensible, the drive and innovations of the private sector, the ownership by provinces, exposure and expertise of freelance professionals and donors, global alignments set by international organisations/for are elements that need to be combined for optimal benefits from emerging and fast-changing scenarios. ‘Education for the Future’ needs to be taken up as a social movement rather than a stereotypical governmental function.

Coming into power with the promise to fast track progress in the country, the current government in Pakistan is at the cusp of this challenging but promising opportunity. I hope the government recognises and enters the next loop of world progress, to provide springboards for future generations – away from the linearity of set processes and for having faith in the enormous budding talent spread all over the country.

The writer is a researcher and international development professional.

Topstory minus plus

Opinion minus plus

Newspost minus plus

Editorial minus plus

National minus plus

World minus plus

Sports minus plus

Business minus plus

Karachi minus plus

Lahore minus plus

Islamabad minus plus

Peshawar minus plus