The digital future is fast approaching. I am stunned at how much technological changes have occurred in just the last decade. No one imagined roles such as Blockchain Developer or Social Media Manager would exist today. Fifteen years ago, Facebook, Android and iOS smartphones didn’t even exist. Today, they have become an indispensable part of our lives. Unfortunately, our education system has largely remained the same. If you are studying a five year course in the university, by the time you are graduating, most of the things you learnt would probably be irrelevant.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) will dominate the jobs of the future and Africa is not exempt. Google has already opened AI research centre in Ghana to cater to the African market. It is expected that in the next decade or two, AI will equal or surpass human intelligence. If you have an 8-year-old, by 2030 he/she will be getting into the labour market. In the face of this uncertainty, it can be pretty hard to know how to equip the next generation with the skills for success. As a concerned parent, you need to ask yourself what work will look like in 10-15 years from now and what skills your child would need to be successful. You need to start preparing them for that future. But no matter what the future holds, one thing is certain: learning how to work with AI will be critical to success. Nevertheless, the skills needed might not be what you expect.
The current thinking among many is that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education and teaching kids to code is the solution. What most people don’t realise is that AI will likely automate the writing of codes in the future. As AI advance in the ability to learn on their own without being explicitly programmed, they will ultimately be better at coding than humans. Computers already exhibit great intelligence on many fronts, including memory and processing speed. Interestingly, those are the attributes our education system currently rewards. The best in school are those who can most speedily recall and process information during exams. This was pretty helpful in the past, but now we live in an age where everything is googleable.
Coding no doubt is a great skill to have and kids must be encouraged to gain them at an early age. However, the most valuable combinations of skills are those that marry tech (coding), creativity, entrepreneurship and humanities. Experts are now advocating for a shift from STEM TO STEAM. The “A” in STEAM represents “Arts” (humanities, language, design, drama, music, new media, etc.). Recent research findings in neuroscience shows that arts activities boost problem solving skills, memory systems, analytical skills and creativity―all critical for achieving STEM success.
Creativity is going to be far more important in a future where machines can code better than humans.
One of the unique powers that humans possess is the “power of imagination”. It is one thing that machines won’t be able to do. Creativity is our competitive advantage over them. Any job that involves repetition, and no creativity, is at risk of disruption. You should aim to help your kids develop their creative capabilities and prepare them for roles that are harder to automate.
The time has come to recast education as a life-long process. We should no longer expect kids to have only one focused period of education to prepare them for the rest of their lives. Learning should be seen as a journey rather than a destination. As technology evolves, disruption will continue to be a recurrent concern. The only certain strategy to transcend disruptions and thrive in uncertain times is to nurture your children to be lifelong learners. It is one of the best gifts we can impart on them. Luckily, lifelong learning is more accessible now than ever before especially with the advent of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC).
We are racing towards a future that requires highly adaptable knowledge workers who can work independently and collaboratively with teams made up of humans, robots and bots. It’s time to rethink the things we teach our children and how we teach them. Fostering your kid’s curiosity, creativity and love for learning is a vital step towards preparing them for that future. This will empower them to face the challenges that will be thrown at them by the brave new world.