Lifelong learning. Learning to learn. Unlearning. All these phrases were unheard of till a few years ago, but now play a very crucial role.
What do these phrases signify?
Simply put, with rapid, dynamic advancements in artificial intelligence and technology changing the landscape of the world of work, the way we work and the work we do are rapidly changing. And these changes beget changes in the education system to stay up-to-date and ensure the world of learning and the world of work align.
However, there seems to be little/ no movement towards these in the present education system. The same education system that has to prepare the future of this country, the youth, for the future of work, continues to exist in the same way it has for years… not acknowledging this rapidly transforming world.
Having said this, one may also argue that before we begin to incorporate the future of work, we need to ensure the education systems are addressing the gross disconnect that seems to lie between what is taught in school and what is applied by and expected of the workforce when they commence their careers.
Hence, there is an urgent need to incorporate necessary changes in the education system so that they ensure three things:
1) The youth is aware of the career options available to them, and the path to take to achieve them, including the jobs of the future.
2) The youth is able to make an informed decision about the career options most suited to them, aligning with their skills and interests.
3) Educational institutions are equipped with the means to prepare the youth for their preferred career choices.
While the current education system provides a solid foundation to students, it needs to integrate and incorporate these aforementioned salient points to equip and enlighten the youth further, so that they can make better decisions and in turn help build the economy of the country.
The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs 2018 report states that while automation will lead to reduction in the workforce in various companies, the share of many emerging professions will increase their share of employment from 16% to 27% by 2022. Hence, while there are challenges in terms of work being automated and jobs being lost, there are also opportunities in terms of jobs that are being added or being transformed from their current traditional ways. Lifelong learning is one such way to ensure that these opportunities are utilized. Continuous learning will also ensure that any threat to changes in the way of work are countered. A 2016 report on the ‘Future of Jobs in India by BCG and CII’ elaborates upon this.
At present, there is a lack of knowledge of professions beyond a few popular ones. Almost 67% of the students we spoke to in 2018, through our programs at Arthan Foundation, had knowledge about only a few limited career domains — medicine, law, teaching, engineering and some vocational careers like salon services, stitching, and electrical or plumbing services. Further, even within these there was paucity of understanding of what must be done to make a career in these professions — the qualifications needed, or steps to approach them and so on. More critically, there was no emphasis on exploring career options that matched the passion and interests of the students. Students were mostly unaware about the jobs of the future — AI, Data Analytics, Robotics, Machine Learning and so on.
The future world of work for which the present must prepare has many unanswered questions. And while we would have to approach each question carefully, what is needed now is to ensure that skills (cognitive, technical or social-emotional) that are taught in school are aligned with what will be required in the job market of the future. Career counselling — that enables exposure to the vast array of career paths along with the manner to approach these careers — ought to be made available to students, where technology can play a crucial role to bridge the gap and provide accessibility to students in the most remote parts of the country.
Arthan Foundation is a Delhi-based non-profit organisation that prepares students for the future of work through its career planning and 21st century skills program. Arthan Foundation believes that empowering children with the right knowledge, information and 21st century skills to enable them to make informed career choices is critical to alleviating poverty in India.