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Opinion & Analysis

Is it time we revolutionised learning?

HILLCREST DURING THEATRE REHEARSALS. file photo | nmg
HILLCREST STUDENTS DURING THEATRE REHEARSALS. Countries worldwide need to invest in digital learning infrastructure. file photo | nmg 

Last week, I took part in the Global Learning Council (GLC) Summit in Berlin, Germany. Recognizing the disruptiveness of digitisation in the way we work, live and learn, the summit sought to find a response to the rapidly changing landscape by bringing together a group of thought leaders in the area of effective use of technology to enhance learning outcomes.

The summit came up with a declaration, dubbed the “Berlin Consensus,” that highlights five key resolutions around mind-set and skills, structures, drivers and enablers, opportunities and challenges and new pedagogical teaching concepts and scientific evidence.

These declarations mirror some of the issues I raised in my column last week titled, it’s time to build skill sets for the future. Pedagogical methods used throughout our education system are wanting.

Industry has always complained that a knowledge gap exists between the skills needed by labour market and the kind of graduates coming out of local universities. Lifelong learning, a revered characteristic of committed academics, is rare even with the Commission of University Education (CUE) guidelines.

Yet we know that a mere acquisition of a PhD does not make a person a good teacher. In modern days, a teacher/lecturer may need more resources to deliver an effective lecture. Digital content (Not a PowerPoint presentation) has been somewhat effective, but those who lack digital literacy mostly resist it.

As evidenced by a series of conferences, the global north is in search of not just the skills for the future but how the future learning should be. These future concerns have not registered in the mind-set of policy makers in the global south.

Many think they still have time on their side. There isn’t any. The average millennial has had more digital content than most grownups. Failure to incorporate digital content in current and future pedagogical methods is like riding on a dead horse. The following are excerpts from the Berlin Consensus: For a successful digital transformation of education we need a change of mindsets: a willingness to change, focus on agility and creativity are equally as important for the transformation of education, as are funding and technical equipment.

Society and labour markets change dramatically through digitisation. Graduates need to be equipped with 21st century competences to be successful in the future. Curricula need to be updated accordingly.

Digital transformation requires a complete chain of structural elements — from IT infrastructure to training and support structures regarding the innovative use of technologies, all consistent with the evidence about how learning actually works.

Access to learning materials, education and information is key to achieving the global goal of equal opportunities. With respect to drivers and enablers, new technologies are changing pedagogical approaches, as they allow the instant access of information almost anywhere and anytime.

Technological developments create new ways of understanding teaching and learning processes. New players will enter the global education market and bring new dynamism which can change the business models of existing education institutions. On opportunities and challenges, learning on all levels is a key to prosperity around the globe. The digital divide between generations and global regions is a challenge.

Countries worldwide need to invest in digital learning infrastructure. Global citizenship education is one way to create such a system. In almost every domain, there is an accelerating increase in available information, faster obsolescence of existing knowledge and shorter innovation cycles.

The speed of changes will be a challenge for society, industries and systems like the education market. In the new pedagogical teaching concepts and scientific evidence, the roles of instructors and students must be rethought. Indeed, these roles have already begun to change.

A horizontal concept of connected teaching and learning promises a new quality of education. Collaborative and personalised learning are key learning concepts to help all students, including students who have been traditionally underserved, to develop knowledge, skills and abilities that will prepare them for college, universities and today’s workplaces. The consensus was simply an acceptable middle ground. Some presentations advocated for much more radical changes. Perhaps we need to revolutionise learning.

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