By Praveen Chunduru
While I like saying that the 10 to 21 year olds are far ahead of me in terms of their familiarity with technology, their clarity of thought, or their knowledge, I don’t really believe it. I will tell you which generation will certainly surpass me, and in fact, all of us who are alive today.
The kids in this superior generation will be born in the time period 2018-20. By then, a seismic shift in education and the way information is organized and accessed would have taken place. Why those immediately younger than me do not intimidate me is because they’ve had largely similar backgrounds and access to resources in their lives as I had. However this next generation will be largely educated using technology that is far ahead of not only what we studied with, but of what we even have today. Across the world, tablet computer and multiple-media based education is being experimented with, but this kind of education remains prohibitively expensive for large chunks of the global population. However, with a mushrooming of low-cost solutions and of global philanthropy in education, education in the future will not only be more high-tech, it will also be more equal. It’s not too hard for me to imagine a child in Central African Republic video-conferencing with a teacher in England as part of a global classroom, 10 years from now.
Why will high-tech education make these kids superior? This is because they’ll be educated not in facts or any established curriculum, but in how to explore the global knowledge database and better seek the required information. From a very young age they’ll have the resources, which will do justice to their curiosity. Being able to find immediate and accurate answers to questions (and kids seem to have millions of questions) is going to result in even greater curiosity and a quick assimilation of expertise. While presently, regardless of what you may ‘like’ studying, you’re forced to study an array of subjects in which you’re pretty sure you have very little interest in, so that you become more generally employable. The world is increasingly demanding extremely specialized capability. In such a world, the present structure of school education will be obsolete. Kids will have access to all the world’s information, with teachers and schools teaching kids only how to browse through it. Courses will be less forced and more sought. Lessons will be increasingly learned and decreasingly taught. And each of these kids will figure out very early what their area of interest is, figure out whether there is a demand for that field, explore entrepreneurship at a very early age, and in quick time, carve a niche out for themselves. Come 2040, it will be darn near impossible for us middle-aged generalists to compete with enthusiastic young-adults who have very specialized and sought-after skills.
Already, massive online open-coursewares, such as Khan Academy and Coursera are shaping a new wave of students, who want to pursue interests or enhance their skills through free and flexible education. Entry barriers to good education are decreasing rapidly.
Across the world, education is being recognized as a liberator of people, as an answer to all social ills – from corruption to poverty. We’re seeing an increasing number of venture capital funds putting money into education start-ups and philanthropists encouraging new ideas to take shape, providing a safety net for entrepreneurs, propelling innovation, at the same time that we’re seeing parents increasingly recognize the benefits of education and vocational training.
The generation that comes after that will not stand a significant advantage over those born in 2018-20, for this first wave would have already benefitted from the bulk of the transformation. Think about seismic shifts. The integration of technology into education is a seismic shift, and it was the first such shift we saw in at least 2 decades. Maybe the next great shift that we see will come around 2040, but considering how clueless I am about the details of the immediately coming shift, I won’t even attempt speculating about the one after that.
The purpose of this post, more than to make you better aware of the exciting ongoing developments in the education sector, more than to suggest to you that we ought to be afraid of the coming competition (I really don’t believe that we should be), is to make you more generally optimistic about the future of the world. Education is one of those things (probably the best of them) that perpetuate prosperity. The more you have of education, the more aware you are of your rights and responsibilities, the more knowledgeable you are about practices across the globe, and the more you push for improvement in the society. Over the past century, the quality and pervasiveness of education has determined the success of countries, and considering the imminent wave of technology-enabled, free, exploration and seeking focused academics, education will assume the role of the great equalizer of the wealth of nations. And we get courtside seats to this phenomenon.
The author is presently employed as an Investment Analyst with International Finance Corporation. His biggest hobby is writing. Dreams to write for The Economist, his favourite magazine. In TIE, he tries to focus on writing from experience and observation than from research. He hopes that you find his articles convincing sometimes, disagreeable sometimes, but thought-provoking and enjoyable, always. Email Id: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius