Earlier this year, The World Economic Forum released its thoughts on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, since then South Africans have been obsessing over this much undefined new chapter of human evolution. Rightly so, we should all be.
But how does South Africa’s public education system compare to the new social standards suggested in the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
In the context of development, South Africa is considered to be a middle-income country, which means our developmental challenges are slightly above those some of our counterparts in the continent or even some parts of Asia are facing. But even with that said, our public education system is sadly Third World primitive quality. It is based on creating labourers (job seekers) and not job creators. In this Fourth Industrial Revolution being simply book smart means nothing, if you cannot do what you know and even faster than the person next to you or on the other side of the world.
Our education system in this democratic dispensation has failed to recognise that it has not changed the “class-based” Capitalist philosophy it inherited from the apartheid state. Instead, curriculum leaders have just modified pre-existing school subjects and removed some which they should have modified, such as Religious Education.
Why am I obsessing about the philosophy behind our education system? If the philosophy behind our education system is obsolete, then the thinking that informs policy and curriculum reform will follow the same downward spiral into an abyss of absolute irrelevance.
The philosophy behind South Africa’s kind of Capitalism is based on the premise of creating a skilled “civil society” that is obedient to every hierarchal command. When instead it should be producing disruptive thinkers who seek to challenge what we as the current society consider “normal” about our present conditions.
This the reason why we have a lot of dormant skilled people in the population. These are young people to be specific. They are waiting for an instruction from someone above them to tell them what to do, when and then pay them a salary for obedience because they never ask WHY? We have an academically qualified population that cannot lead itself. This is a crisis of boxed imaginations living in a red tape society.
I submit that our education system does not offer the next generation of citizens enough mental stimulation, especially at entry level. For instance, Daycare centres in the townships and rural areas should be the top priority, not just for providing meals, shelter and a safe space to play while the parents are away. They are the gateway to a greater population that could be poorer than we are right now.
Am I suggesting that the system is a complete failure? Absolutely not. But we cannot celebrate the few pockets of progress we can number like it’s success. We operating below our potential.
I believe that our system simply lacks real focus. It does not answer simple questions like;
What are we preparing the learners to be? This determines the position we want learners to take in the country and the world at large. The aim should be to make leaders, innovators and creators with free minds and not despondent followers with grouped imaginations. The skills we import and the global demand for our local talent informs us about the position we have already assumed in the world and we are nowhere near the Fourth Industrial Revolution capacity.
What other essential tools will our learners need, apart from reading, writing, speaking and computer literacy? This question informs the context of the curriculum. Critical life skills such as entrepreneurship, critical thinking, research, debate, invention, public speaking, creativity, multi-linguism, a global worldview, coding, emotional intelligence, empathy and philanthropy are some of the key differences between people, not just the degrees we pile up.
Flawed thinking. If we are to be ready for the future we must first understand that we are already in the future. We are already in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and we need to catch up with the pace of the world. Humans and robots are already competing for the same job posts.
Secondly, we cannot create a future for young people, (if we could then we would not be having this conversation) but we can, however, create young people of the future. This is where we need to be. We just need to go against our own education which taught us to be so system orientated and that experience is everything. We need to be more people-centred and the government policies will follow – noting that the government is not the institution but the people.
What does a young person of the future look like? Socially astute on the state of their country, continent and the world. Self-aware, informed and expressive. Not only that, but he/she believes that his/her efforts, ideas and skills can make a difference. He/she refuses to accept the things that cannot be changed but instead takes the initiative to change the things that should not be accepted.
Let me know your thoughts.