by Jon Foster-Pedley

Foreword

Education in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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As the Fourth Industrial Revolution exponentially gathers steam, many people will be wondering what the effect will be on education.

As everything becomes digitised, once-arcane knowledge will become common. Cars will drive themselves. Robots will perform complex medical procedures. Accountants and actuaries could go the way of the blacksmith. Computers will resolve legal issues. Many occupations will become redundant.

But it doesn’t mean that great swathes of the population will be jobless. On the contrary, someone will still need to create the machines, someone will still need to manage them—as for the rest of us, we will have to learn to deal with the tsunami of knowledge that is now available to us, whether on a smartphone or a voice command in a smart room or office. Someone will have to focus on the quality of life.

As we cross the threshold into World 4.0, our greatest challenge will be how we synthesise information and intelligence into wisdom, how we move from academic understanding to engagement.

The role of educators will be to teach people to be more intuitive, more interdependent, to break down the artificial silos. People will be taught to formulate their own opinions but to be able to voice them in a way that still enables them to hear others.

This will be a world of less dogma because everything will be able to be—and must be—challenged. A world where our strong opinions are lightly held.

Our challenge is not survival but thriving and striving for a quality of life that was unknown to the generations that came before us. In a mechanised world with so much power at our fingertips, we still fret over today, when, in fact, we should start thinking about the consequences of decisions taken today that will affect the next 100 years. Just as rhetoric will be key, so will that other great gift bequeathed by the Greeks be critical: ethics.

Our system of learning thus far has been one of deferred gratification—study now to be able to be employed later. Are students even sure about what and why they are studying? Will their jobs even still be there? Higher learning institutions are facing their own existential crises, with some faculties teaching themselves into extinction.

The deferred gratification model is being replaced with deep experiential learning that is immediately practical. In the UK, sparked by a change in government policy, companies are working with universities to create degree apprenticeships, which allow people to work while they learn in order to sidestep the albatross of generational student debt.

Perhaps the most popular course for students will be Health 101, which will teach them to look after themselves on this journey. The most important skill, though, will be to master complexity, scale and to be able to find sustainable solutions in fast-moving, high-stake and uncertain environments.

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