To prepare young people for employment in the technology age, governments will have to re-examine how students learn and the skills they need.
Business and government leaders, in a session on the future of jobs at the World Economic Forum on ASEAN, said there also needs to be a rethink on how educators collaborate with employers and parents.
“The challenge we have is preparing our next generation to be part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Anies Baswedan, Minister of Education and Culture of Indonesia, told participants.
“Our students and teachers are still in the 20th century; our classrooms are 19th-century. This is a phenomenon across the globe. Governments need to focus on empowering the stakeholders of education – the parents and teachers. Parents are the most important but are the least prepared to help prepare the next generations.”
The challenge is not just about providing the hardware, such as classrooms and other facilities or the technology to enhance teaching and learning, but also is about equipping young people with the skills for 21st-century competence, such as communications, collaboration and empathy, even though the full scale of the changes ahead is still unclear.
“Everything that is being said about the Fourth Industrial Revolution is going to happen,” warned Prakash Mallya, Managing Director, South-East Asia, at Intel in Singapore. The expansion of connectivity and cloud-based systems “will lead to business models that we have never imagined”.
Every aspect of life, from farming to urban water management, will be affected. “Technology can disrupt, but it will always be complementing people to help them do things better,” Mallya said.
Those with the capacity to learn and to work well with others should succeed. “You need collaboration and teamwork,” World Economic Forum on ASEAN Co-Chair Kathleen Chew, Group Legal Counsel at YTL Corporation in Malaysia, said.
“There will be demand for people with high cognitive skills and who are good at developing programmes.” She said the danger is that the middle-level workers, such as clerical staff, may lose their jobs to artificial intelligence systems. This, in turn, could lead to greater inequality in society, Chew feared.
New approaches to teaching and learning should involve educating parents so they understand the challenges that their children will be facing in the workplace, Baswedan stressed.
He said: “We need to see a closer partnership between corporations and government and closer cooperation between schools and government. We need to invite companies to train graduates within the framework of the schools. The private sector should open up its doors not only to students but also to teachers and principals.”
“Youngsters coming out of school are not prepared to get into work or industry,” said Gerald Lawless, Head of Tourism and Hospitality at Dubai Holding in the United Arab Emirates.
Employers and the education sector could learn from the hospitality industry, where training programmes and schooling typically involve placements in the workplace. This means graduates are ready to work immediately.
Education in future may focus not so much on producing specialist graduates but could instead train people who are generalists, able to move from one job to another, Baswedan said.
For Chew, what may be missing in schooling today is the development of human character: “We seem to have taken values out of education – what make us resilient, honest and have integrity.”