All around the world students at schools and universities are preparing for year-end exams and graduations, and this time every year makes me think back on my own student days. The choices of programmes were way fewer, and the types of jobs to prepare for much clearer. It was nothing like the future today’s students will have to face.
Where my generation is still often astonished at the impact of new technology, the younger generations are hyper connected. They navigate naturally in a world with voice assistance, self-driving cars, and not least information available at the touch of a screen. They leverage technology in everything they do and will demand the same level of innovation and personalisation at school and in their future jobs that they experience in their personal lives today.
Although today’s technology changes and innovations present today’s businesses with interesting challenges, it will be even more challenging for our education system to adapt to the reality of tomorrow. How can teachers, schools and universities prepare our children for jobs that do not even exist yet? How can they help future generations make the shift from learning and storing information to digesting knowledge? How can they apply new technologies in the classroom and include both soft and hard skills?
In a recent study – Realize 2030 – commissioned by Dell Technologies, 3,800 CxO business leaders from around the world shared their views on how they prepare for the future by working together with intelligent machines and new technologies in a so-called human-machine relationship. More than 42 percent believe they will get more job satisfaction by giving the most boring tasks to intelligent machines. And an impressive 82 percent of leaders expect humans and machines to work as integrated teams in their organisation within five years.
What is even more interesting is that almost 60 percent say that our education system will need to change to teach students how to learn and how to digest information on the fly, rather than to continue to teach them facts and memorise data. This will be critical if we want to help students prepare for jobs that don’t even exist yet – taking into account that an incredible 85 percent of jobs that are likely to exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet.
According to a recent article in Harvard Business Review, the next generation will need to work in teams even more than today and increasingly integrate solutions and components from other teams in their own work. To do so seamlessly, they will need a strong set of soft skills ranging from creativity and adaptability to interpersonal skills. An open, inclusive and culturally aware mindset will prove invaluable as boundaries between companies and nationalities blur and crowdsourcing play an ever-increasing role.
Future new technologies will not only provide the next generation with some incredible opportunities, it will also push their ethical boundaries and present them with difficult choices of how far they can and should go. Hence, a strong ethical foundation bundled with increased technological understanding will be key. In order to offer students the right set of hard skills and stimulate them to feel comfortable in a technology-heavy world, schools need to immerse students in a broad range of computer science domains from an early age. It is critical to secure at least some basic technological understanding, but clearly even better to help students discover a higher level of passion for technology – ranging from robotics to computational mathematics such as statistics, probability and logic.
From what I have seen when travelling around the region, the future of our next generation is bright. More and more educational institutions already make use of new technologies that are available, providing students with great insight into what the future holds. But we can do better – I still see an increased opportunity and an important role for Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) at the schools of tomorrow.
With mobile VR, students would have the world at their fingertips. A VR history class could transport students to anywhere in the world and offer them an immersive history lesson without leaving the classroom, thus democratising knowledge and allowing children from all social classes access to the same experiences. Medical students could use the technology and VR videos of real-life surgery to practice steps of surgery in detail, and it could give architect and design students an instant virtual view of their projects. With AR, static images in books can be brought to life and bring an extra dimension to the learning experience.
If today’s educational sector continues to utilise the available technologies with a strong focus on teaching soft collaborative skills combined with the right set of hard digital skills, they can offer tomorrow’s data-driven workforce everything needed to start their professional life – in jobs that are yet to be created.
As the exam season nears I wish all students the best of luck with their exams – and the rest of us congratulations on a much better educated and technology savvy workforce of tomorrow.