Ten to 15 years ago, a typical lesson would consist of a classroom of learners listening attentively to a teacher lecture on a specific subject, taking notes from a chalkboard. Students were essentially passive recipients of information. But, like everything in our world, education is evolving. While there’s still a long way to go (many curricula across the world are still stuck in the Industrial Revolution) some institutions have adopted future-centred education or “Education 4.0” — ushering in a future where “man” and machine open a whole new world of opportunity. 

What makes Education 4.0 different

The digital revolution and technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have transformed industries and consequently, jobs — changing them entirely or rendering them obsolete. This digital revolution has altered the socio-economic landscape and education has to adapt to ensure their future career success and sustainability of society and our economy. 

 The World Economic Forum estimates that 65% of children entering primary school will end up working in jobs that don’t currently exist. With the Education 4.0 approach, a student isn’t just a passive recipient of information, they become an active participant in a personal learning process. This new approach encourages the creation of curricula that emphasises STEAM subjects for a more technologically-able and versatile workforce. Subjects like coding and robotics will become commonplace. Even with automation and AI rendering a number of jobs redundant, human beings will never be made completely obsolete. Human skills like emotional intelligence, creative and critical thinking and empathy grow ever more crucial as technology becomes further entrenched in our lives. Education 4.0 recognises this reality, and as students learn to programme computers, they will also practise the skills they can’t replicate in those machines; allowing them to be masters of the real and the artificial. 

Accessibility is also a major part of the Education 4.0 approach; educational content is designed with online learning in mind. Even though online and distance-learning becomes more common with each passing year, it’s generally geared toward university students or working professionals.  

Where is South Africa in all of this?

Universities or tertiary education institutions generally adapt first, in 2019 11 different South African universities offered courses in 4IR and fields related to AI and robotics. This is encouraging, but this kind of future-focused subject matter needs to be introduced far earlier. There is progress, however, the Basic Education Department has trained nearly 44,000 teachers in computer skills. In addition, the University of South Africa in partnership with the department has offered its 24 ICT lab across South Africa to train teachers in coding. But we need more of this, and faster. Schools and the bodies that govern them need to speed up in order to give students the best possible chance for the 2020s and beyond. 

Education 4.0 has the potential to make education accessible in even the remote parts of South Africa. But it needs to be adopted before it can be embraced. Many South African children struggle to access even basic education. Fortunately, though, we live in a world with endless possibilities and have the power to make change, even as individuals. Red & Yellow continues to play a role in the educational landscape in South Africa, and our latest venture is to address the issue of future-proofing our youth. On 19 March come hear our 3 formidable speakers discuss what can be done to prepare learners for an uncertain future. More details to follow — send us an email for more info. 

About the Author

Chulu Ngesi is a graduate intern at Red & Yellow. She enjoys watching movies and series and eating at least one baked good a week.