Education Needs To Be Re-Evaluated In The Light Of The 4th Industrial Revolution

Internationally recognised education consultant Tony Brandenburg who provides Education Technology Consultancy Services to the UNESCO speaks on the future of technology and it’s on education and learning processes

Tony Brandenburg

Q. As an educator what is your view about education yesterday, today and tomorrow? What should the education system be like in the next decade?

I don’t think that education is valued by many societies/cultures around the world.  Lip service is given to education's value but when we analyse the data, funding for infrastructure, teacher professional learning and pre service teacher educators is low compare to other governmental areas. I do think that teachers who received contemporary professional learning opportunities do have an impact on education and in their countries education seems to be moving forward. Education needs to be re-evaluated in the light of the 4th industrial revolution. I also think it is easier for governments to spend money on infrastructure and equipment and more difficult on professional learning for educators. I understand this, but lament this trend. The relationship between the student and the educator is critical; many seem to think that this is diminished with the advent of technology, where I think that the role of the educator is now more important than ever. Granted, this role needs to change from the old perception of the teacher who is wise and knowledgeable to a more progressive understanding of an educator as a mentor and facilitator.

Q. How do you think teachers/ educators can prepare themselves to educate digital natives to be successful human being complete with EQ and IQ?

I have never been a supporter of the evaluation of an individual’s IQ but always have seen a need to develop an individual’s EQ.  It has been argued that you can't have one without the other, and although this argument has favourable points, I do think the assessment of IQ and EQ can be over rated and wrongly used. I also struggle with the question and the use of the term digital natives. Prenksy’s definition was valid in 2001 when he published his article 'Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants’ but not now. I would contend that in 2018 we have moved from this thinking and that the digital native was really a generation ago and a product of the 3rd Industrial revolution, or the digital decade. For me, the first industrial revolution used water and steam, the second used electric power, the third used electronics/information technology while in our time the combination of technologies including the physical, digital, and biological areas are what contemporary education is exploring and trying to understanding.

Q. Is technology important to educate the current generation?

Yes for sure. There is no debate or a discussion anymore and that technology as part of learning is accepted. I think the important concept is how an educator understands how a student learns and can be engaged in becoming a valuable member of a contemporary society. I think that if a teacher falls for the trap of ‘teaching the way they were taught’ then the current generation’s education may be restricted. This is difficult, as many sectors of society still argue that there was nothing wrong with the way they were educated so that should be the way of today. This argument is flawed when we look at the information around what type of employment today's primary school students will have when they leave school.

Q. Do you think children with special needs, learning disabilities can benefit through tech-lead learning approach? How can this be made available to them as bringing them to mainstream is as important as their right to educate?

No matter how this question is answered people misunderstand my point of view.  I believe every child has a right to education and that this education should be personalised for them.  I think the days of teaching a class of 50 students the same thing at the same time is flawed. In a class of 50 there can be 50 different learning styles, 50 different sets of interest and importantly 50 individuals. Whether they have special needs or learning disabilities or not, they are entitled to high quality education, one that includes technology; and as I argue that technology is important in everyday education it would seem more than logical to suggest that technology is necessary in the education of those with special needs.  I don’t believe in the idea of ‘mainstream’ education is and I sincerely hope it doesn’t exist!

Q. How can educational institutions incorporate innovative technology solutions as a reasonable cost?

Education systems, schools and parents do what they can to provide the best for their society. What is reasonable cost for some is unreasonable for others. I go back to my fundamental belief in answering this question; spend the money on the teachers and the innovative technology will happen with the technology that is available. What happens in one country doesn’t have to happen in another. Although a discussion for another time, I have trouble with the comparison of student between countries. The education system in a country is the product of years/decades of social development and how an education system works cannot be changed in a few years. Countries around the world do their best, they support each other, and share new ideas and modern approaches. And they do what they can with the finances available.


Q. Parents and teachers often complain of children being addicted to mobile, computer games and other gadgets. What do you have to say to them? How can one make them understand and train them to allow tech-led learning?    

I am not sure that we need tech-led learning.  I think we need innovative and contemporary learning that develops a broad range of skills for our students.  When I say skills, I am not referring to how to cut and paste in a document, or how to create a presentation, but more the skills of communication, collaboration, global understanding, awareness of health and well-being and what peace and sustainability is about.  For me, the use of technology and its integration into everyday teaching is part of the learning process that helps build these 21st century skills. (Google:  21st century framework)  The absolutely last thing I would ever do with the above gadgets is ban them from school or from the home.  I think this is a short term, short-sighted approach and one that is very dangerous, and in nearly all cases counter productive.  I do think that education is about awareness of society and societal trends and that structures need to be in place to provide guidance on these trends. 


Q. Over all the years of working in the education sector, how do you think learning has changed in the last decade?

Without a doubt the role of the teacher has changed. The teacher is no longer the “sage on the stage” but more the mentor, guide and facilitator of learning. Our students arrive at school with a very different information set than they did a decade ago and teachers have had to realise that and adapt. It is here that a worthy conversation is about the difference between information and knowledge.  Tough not today. With the change in the role of the teacher learning has subsequently changed. I am of the belief that teaching has needed to change more in the last 10 years than ever in the history of the human race, fundamentally because of the changes we have seen in all fields of human endeavour.  Modern teaching is not the same as it was many years ago, the role of the teacher has changed and will continue to change.

Q. While a lot of decisions to achieve better learning outcomes, lowering school dropout rates, government programmes to train teachers are made a policy level, the trickledown effect is rarely visible. How can we track these? Is there a fool proof way to make sure that these decisions are affecting at the grass root level?

Being the Education Minister in a country is a difficult job. Ministers are confronted with the political imperative: How can I be seen to be a leader in my portfolio in the short and near term? Usually this means the purchase of equipment or building new buildings or providing better resources, which can be implemented in the short term for political gain.  This is the political imperative, as quick wins are important for many political reasons.  I agree with this and support quick wins, though, in my opinion it is in countries where we see ministers prepared to plan for the long term future as well as the short term, and to put long term polices and processes in place (that may outlast their term in office) and have sustainable long term goals is where we see the greatest impact. Short term goals and leaving a legacy should go hand in hand if there is to be sustainable relevant change.

Q. As a veteran in educational strategic planning, what advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who are pursuing edu-tech start-ups?

Go for it!  The education system can be harsh and unforgiving but also rewarding.  If the product or idea is good it will last, if not it will disappear. Such is life!

Q. Companies are putting aside annual funds for CSR projects. Education being a primary requirement of our society, what do you think companies should focus on while investing for CSR in Education?

Even if I am not a US citizen, the second sentence of the US Declaration of Independence document resonates with me. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In my belief these words, no matter from where they have come, are a valuable insight into what should be a focus for CSR investment. 

I don't want companies to buy technology for schools under the guise of a CSR program; I would like them to spend their money on support for teachers and school communities to build a better understanding of what it is to be happy in life and contributing to the growth of the local and global community.

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