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Science, Technology
& Innovation

Learning for Uncertain Future Challenges

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Learning is supposed to be empowering someone to achieve added value so that he or she will be able to perform productively for better living. People’s futures depend on their learning achievement. Learning is closely related to individual and personal ability, so that learning should not be conducted massively, since the personal factor would be neglected, and the personal factor is the key to effective learning. Successful learning and learning benefit can only be determined by the learners, not by teachers nor by school principals, not even by the government. Teachers in any country will assess overall learners’ achievements according to a standard which is usually determined by the country’s Education Ministry in the form of a National Standard. Imagine how a National Standard could be implemented at the classroom level: there would be many derivative regulations to translate the macro-policy National Standard into a micro-operational classroom standard.

 

Is there any correlation between the standard determined by the Ministry and students’ satisfaction with that standard? Is there any correlation between the government’s expectations and students’ expectations? Every government expects that the quality of education is significantly improved from time to time so that the country will have human capital with high quality that can improve the country’s productivity and competitiveness. From the students’ point of view, they expect to gain knowledge, skills and abilities, to be promoted gradually to higher stages in life, and eventually gain knowledge, skills and abilities to independently live respectably through their careers. Who should guarantee that the education provided by the government will be beneficial for learners and that learners can achieve their expectations? It depends on the type of knowledge, skills and abilities that are delivered by teachers to students.

Learn without limits

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a new form of higher learning institution is emerging that undertakes teaching, research and service in a different manner, such as massive open online courses (MOOCs), virtual classrooms and laboratories, virtual libraries and virtual teachers. Source: Coursera

There is a huge gap between the knowledge of the educator and the expectations of the student which makes the educational process more difficult and almost impossible to be conducted in the conventional way.

Conventional education has been performed by teachers or instructors where teachers teach students how to do things, by giving examples, asking students to memorise information given by the teachers, asking students to comply with teachers’ instruction (for otherwise students would fail), teaching students to use manuals and dedicated software to solve current problems, and so on. Normally teachers would teach students based on the teachers’ own knowledge, skills and abilities. Some teachers will not give out all of their knowledge, skills and abilities, therefore students’ knowledge, skills and abilities will be limited, and it may not be enough for them to improve themselves accordingly. But there are many good and sincere teachers who will give out all of their knowledge, skills and abilities to their students, in the hope that in the future the students will perform better than they, the teachers, themselves.

 

KNOWLEDGE GAP

According to Klaus Schwab in his book The Fourth Industrial Revolution, in the near future there are many jobs and occupations that will no longer be available due to substitution by robotics, algorithms, automation, software, artificial intelligence, applications and computers. On the other hand, there are jobs and occupations that will always be available since there is no possible substitution at all.

 

According to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute, in 2030 there will be 23 million jobs or occupations replaced by automation processes, but 27 to 46 million new jobs or occupations will be created, including 10 million jobs or occupations that never existed before. If conventional education is implemented, it would be impossible to prepare learners for the 10 million previously non-existent occupations, since no teacher or instructor would be currently available. How could a teacher or instructor teach the students something that is non-existent and unknown? This is the real challenge faced by educators all over the world; at the same time it is quite challenging for students to learn something that is currently non-existent and unknown, without appropriate mentors or tutors.

 

There is a huge gap between the knowledge of the educator and the expectations of the student, which makes the educational process more difficult and almost impossible to be conducted in the conventional way. The knowledge and experience of the educator has been acquired from the past and been updated from time to time according to the latest developments. Students expect to be able to survive in the future by securing the appropriate jobs; one can imagine they will be dissatisfied if the acquired knowledge from teachers is useless, outdated and irrelevant. The teachers cannot improve the relevance of their knowledge due to the uncertain and unknown future of the work in question.

 

Advancement of science and technology does not make our life easier, but, instead, makes it more difficult and complex. Complexity is the nature of the future of work, and a new paradigm has to be invented and implemented accordingly in order for one to survive. One needs special skills to be able to solve complex problems.

 

Tasks can be viewed from two dimensions. One discriminates between jobs with analytical and interactive tasks that require thinking, information processing and interactions with others; and tasks that are manual. The other dimension compares routine tasks and non-routine tasks – the former tasks that a computer can easily be programmed to do, the latter requiring flexibility, creativity, problem solving and complex communication.

Figure 1 shows changes over 40 years in shares of the labour force employed in occupations with intensive use of skills of each kind. The shares of the labour force in jobs using non-routine thinking and non-routine interactive skills increased substantially, while the share of jobs using routine skills fell sharply. In sum, more jobs required more and higher levels of cognitive analytical and interpersonal skills. It is interesting to note that the substantial increase in the use of non-routine thinking and non-routine interactive skills started in 1980, when computer technology reached significant speed increase and huge memory capacities. At the same time, artificial intelligence started to develop after the invention of Fuzzy Logic. With the advancement of computer hardware and software, including the fast development of artificial intelligence, routine skills will eventually be fully performed by computers, and jobs requiring routine skills will no longer be available. Referring back to the McKinsey report, 47 million newly created jobs in 2030 will require the use of non-routine skills; in particular, the 10 million new jobs that never existed before will require these skills to solve complex problems.

The conventional learning process needs to be totally reformed, namely, from input-based education to outcome-based education; from a focus on the teaching process to a focus on the learning process; and from teacher-centric learning to student-centric learning.

Designing a better world

In the Human-Centred Design class given by Harry West, Professor of Practice in Mechanical Engineering at Columbia University, students are encouraged to approach problems with an open mind and no preconceptions. Unlike traditional engineering, the focus of human-centred design process is not on technology, but on eliciting behaviour change. Source: www.magazine.engineering.columbia.edu

FUTURE LEARNING

In preparing the next generation to meet the challenges of the future in their work, they have to be equipped with adequate non-routine skills, and skills to solve complex problems. For this to happen, the conventional learning process needs to be totally reformed, namely, from input-based education to outcome-based education; from a focus on the teaching process to a focus on the learning process; and from teacher-centric learning to student-centric learning. In future learning, teachers are no longer teaching students, but making the students learn. The key learning outcome to be achieved by students is the ability to perform lifelong learning.

 

As an example, engineering education has been reformed and reformulated in line with the Washington Accord. Engineering is an activity that is essential to meeting the needs of people, economic development and the provision of services to society. Engineering involves the purposeful application of mathematical and natural sciences and a body of engineering knowledge, technology and techniques. Engineering seeks to produce solutions with effects that are predicted to the greatest degree possible in often uncertain contexts. While bringing benefits, engineering activity has potential adverse consequences. Engineering therefore must be carried out responsibly and ethically, use available resources efficiently, be economical, safeguard health and safety, be environmentally sound and sustainable, and generally manage risks throughout the entire life cycle of a system.

 

There are 12 components of graduate-level engineering education as follows:

 

1. Engineering Knowledge
2. Problem Analysis
3. Design and Development of Solutions
4. Investigation
5. Modern Tool Usage
6. The Engineer and Society
7. Environment and Sustainability
8. Ethics
9. Individual and Team Work
10. Communication
11. Project Management and Finance
12. Lifelong Learning

 

This list shows us that even in engineering education the content of soft skills, related closely with non-routine skills, is dominant. There are four components relating to hard skills (numbers 1 to 5) and eight relating to soft skills (numbers 6 to 12). Soft skills are important for engineers since they are often challenged by complex problems. Among the 12 components, lifelong learning is the key competency to survive in the future of work which is uncertain and unknown.

 

Soft skills will determine the success of future learning, regardless of the type and level of the educational programme. Soft skills should be generic for every educational programme for the future, therefore it is expected that all educational programmes should be reformed and reformulated in accordance to the pattern of graduate attributes in engineering education, as an example. The complexity of future challenges will not be decreasing but most likely will increase, bearing in mind that advancement in science and technology will not make our lives easier but only more complex. Therefore a liberal arts education will be the trend in the near future, where learners will receive a general education that can more easily lead to the ability to contribute to society.

Why ethics matter

Today’s engineering students are the next generation of decision makers. More than ever, these decision makers need to be equipped with the understanding of how making ethical decisions impacts the world around them. An example of one near-term situation that students will face is programming autonomous vehicles for on-road usage – the moral judgements that the “mahcine” makes would have consequences greater than ever before. Photo: iStock

PROF SATRYO SOEMANTRI BRODJONEGORO

Prof Satryo Soemantri Brodjonegoro is Emeritus Professor in Mechanical Engineering at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), Indonesia, and President of the Indonesian Academy of Sciences.

For more than 30 years since 1980, Professor Satryo was a faculty member of the Mechanical Engineering Department at ITB, including serving as Department Chairman (1992 to 1995) and Vice-Dean of Academic Affairs (1995 to 1998). From 1999 to 2007 he served as Director General of Higher Education, Ministry of National Education, Indonesia. He has also been a Fellow of the Indonesian Academy of Sciences since 2008.

Prof Brodjonegoro obtained his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985. His research areas include tribology, fracture mechanics, higher education development and policy and more.

MARCH 2022 | COMMEMORATIVE ISSUE

Healthcare and Education for Asian Development

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Leaders and changemakers of today face unique and complex challenges. The HEAD Foundation Digest features insights and opinions from those in the know addressing a wide range of pertinent issues that factor in a society’s development. 

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About

Leaders and changemakers of today face unique and complex challenges. The HEAD Foundation Digest features insights and opinions from those in the know addressing a wide range of pertinent issues that factor in a society’s development. 

Informed opinions can inspire healthy discussions and open up our imagination to new possibilities. Interested in contributing? Write to us at info@headfoundation

Stay updated on our latest announcements on events and publications

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