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Columnists

It’s time to adapt to evolving education sphere

Careers are changing, but only a handful of nations reflect that change in their policy making. Many institutions of higher learning that should respond to these changes with new dynamic curricula and inspire new careers are rigid.

Most have analogue faculty in an increasingly digital world. They stifle career choices, obstruct curriculum review with impenetrable orthodoxies.

They are, therefore, largely to blame for incapacitating structural unemployment in developing countries. Innovation and creativity has made it possible for new jobs to emerge every other decade or so.

Indeed, some of the common jobs in the market today never existed 10 years ago. The age of a pre-determined set of courses to earn a degree is on its way out.

More dynamic institutions allow students to tailor-make their focus based on their career interest. The flexibility permits the students to select courses from various disciplines into a single degree programme.

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Many of the emerging jobs require a mixture of courses. For instance, an engineer managing a firm requires managerial skills.

In medicine, for example, doctors can’t do it without the knowledge of computers. Whether it is a simple pacemaker implant or some of non-invasive surgical procedures, computers are essential.

The cars we drive today are largely digital and intelligent and soon we will begin to contend with driverless cars.

The advent of digital marketing has literary changed the profession so much that practitioners seeking a job must be familiar with these new requirements. Even in lowly clerical positions, one needs knowledge of computers to be effective.

These changes call for a continuous evaluation of the courses we offer at institutions of higher learning as well as programmes to re-skill the workforce to be relevant in the job market today.

Professional organisations have the obligation to form a strong career cluster to conduct research as well as regular labour market information and help develop future training and re-skilling of the membership.

This perhaps would raise the curiosity to focus on local problems. It is disheartening to see local scientists being bystanders in the race to find a cure for malaria yet they are the ones who understand the disease better.

It is time professional bodies started to emphasise integrated learning by merging academic knowledge and skills with career specific knowledge and skills.

There is no point of having a continuous professional education if it does not lead to a proactive change of the profession necessitated by new knowledge.

Debate on the curriculum to take us to the future is raging. Some countries have put more emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), ostensibly to understand rapid technological changes and be part of the solution.

This alone can never be the sole solution considering that social skills are as important as sciences. After all, a technologist must be aware of the impact of their solutions.

Some technological solutions have a huge impact on individual rights. For example, some of the latest mobile handsets infringe on the rights of the user as they reveal a great deal of information to third parties.

It is perhaps the reason why some organisations have co-working spaces consisting of experts from several fields. This certainly will dominate future innovations.

To be effective in such a work environment, students will need the abilities to work in teams. Through teamwork, students will learn how to communicate, share credit for group work, and compromise where necessary to advance collaborative jobs.

There is need to emphasise teaching of collaborative techniques from the early stages of learning.

I dare say that some of the problems we face in our national development are working in silos and hogging of credit, thereby leaving collaborators disenfranchised.

The culture of selecting areas of focus at high school should be discouraged and allow students to explore courses in their first year of college before they decide their major.

Students should also be exposed to what employers want and hopefully prepare them to meet the requirement.

Most of the complaints in public offices as well as private sector can be summed up into three thematic areas that can be easily dealt with by a responsive educational system.

These are failure to: deliver services on time, work as a team to respond citizen requirements and work within budget.

Learning for the future should entail some basic teaching from early childhood education through to university to ensure employability.

These include lateral thinking, numeracy, literacy and life skills. These must continue long after finishing schooling such that if there are changes one is able to cope with them.

The writer is an associate professor at the University of Nairobi’s School of Business.

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