According to the World Development Report 2018: Learning to Realize Education’s Promise, schooling without learning is a wasted development opportunity—an injustice not just to children, but also to the society we are preparing them for. For too many children, schooling does not translate into learning, making their education irrelevant in the real world. This is a setback for both individuals and the society, beyond pecuniary and non-pecuniary considerations.
In today’s competitive world, no employer wants to hire an employee who does not have basic technology literacy. Yet technological literacy is integrated and prioritised in a handful of schools. Artificial intelligence, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, and many more game-changing technologies are coming of age.
At the same time, digital is becoming the de facto approach to buying products, services and experiences. In the 21st century, technology literacy is a crucial skill-set that has become inescapable, be it our homes or our workplaces, and the same needs to be reflected in our schools, if we are really to prepare future-ready students. For anyone who has to join the workforce, basic technology literacy—i.e., is able to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, create and communicate information—is an indispensable tool.
A crucial aspect of technology that makes it indispensable is that it empowers consumers with the option not only to consume knowledge and information, but also to create it. This can be specifically reformatory in the way students learn and engage with the world outside their classrooms, if schools integrate technology in their curriculum.
The millennial generation are fast learners and are capable of running fast in the productivity race. Therefore, our modes of teaching and imparting skills need to compliment the new generation’s keen sense to adapt to technological advancements—an advantage many of their predecessors did not have. As educators, we must capitalise on this keen sense of learning and adaptability, and ensure technology literacy. However, we have not been able to lay down guidelines for its effective integration. Urgent steps need to be taken in consonance by the government, academia and industry to achieve the desired results. For example, we, at the Canadian International School, host an annual technology conference to assist educators in their journey in integrating technology in their curriculum. However, conferences such as these are only scratching the surface.
Experiential learning for a discovery-led mindset
To keep abreast with the challenges, many schools have started to understand that they need to inculcate skill-sets to prepare for a world that does not exist yet. India is on the path to becoming the country with the largest and youngest employable population in the world (in 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years)—a favourable demographic advantage, which can turn into a disadvantage if not harnessed right now.
Preparing for such a future requires skills that were never part of the traditional curriculum. In the real world, we are presented with a variety of challenges, questions and problems all the time. Teaching how to face such challenges at an individual level is not only an asset, but also a necessity for a student. By situating students in the real world outside their comfort zones and exposing them to external environments will make their education relevant and practical. Learning must be experiential and focus on creating solutions, frameworks or pathways to achieve desired goals.
Experiential learning inculcates the skills of questioning, scrutinising and contemplating about our actions, decisions and experiences. It is only when students are exposed to a contextual or experiential learning will they take charge of their personal learning.
An individual can expect to change jobs at least seven times over the course of working life—and five of such jobs don’t exist yet. As a society, and as educators, it is our role not only to create jobs, but also equip students with the skills required by them to create the jobs they need. Experiential learning creates the discovery-led mindset that helps students effectively navigate the uncertain conditions that may lay ahead of them.
The author is executive director, Canadian International School, Bengaluru