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Technology is evolving at a very fast pace. Cutting-edge technologies of today would either become outdated or evolve into unrecognizably advanced forms 15 years from now. To add to this, there is the fear that Artificial Intelligence (AI) would outsmart humans and replace manual labor. Therefore, today’s software and programming languages will be rendered obsolete by the time today’s students join the future workforce. In such a scenario, skilling and up-skilling become the need of the hour to stay relevant at the workplace. Corporates are training their mid-level employees so that they can keep pace with evolving technology. However, the most important question to address right now is how we train students of the present generation to cope with changing technology when they enter professional life.
The present gap in education
For instance, let’s take the case of computer science as a subject and its relevance at the workplace for students in the future. The current teaching methods focus on making students IT literate by equipping them with skills required to use today’s technology in different fields. Students become adept at using a word processor to write and format documents or create presentations using slides. However, when new versions of software are developed and applications change, their knowledge becomes obsolete. IT literacy skills focus mainly on learning software rather than enhancing skills. Similarly, besides just gaining subject matter knowledge, students must also be equipped with 21st-century skills to be future-ready.
21st-century skills help students to make sense of complex situations, solve problems, conduct investigations and communicate ideas. Educators recognise 21st-century skills as higher-order thinking skills and abilities essential for a student to prosper and succeed in today’s world. Critical-thinking is the ability to understand the connection between ideas and construct and evaluate arguments to solve problems systematically. Creativity is essential to make something new, be it in the field of science or humanities. The ability to collaborate with others and communicate your thoughts and ideas is another 21st-century skill. The purpose of helping a student develop these skills is to help them become future innovators. Adaptability, another 21st-century skill, helps students become adaptable to new challenges and situations.
Rote learning, which has its own benefits, is not enough to help students attain 21st-century skills.
How can students attain 21st-century skills?
Active learning needs to take place to put students at the helm of the learning process. They can no longer be passive recipients of information. Activity-based learning with an emphasis on hands-on experience and group interaction can help students remember concepts for a long time. Enquiry-based learning begins by posing problems and scenarios rather than presenting solutions. It involves self-directed research and enhances their problem-solving skills. A grade-appropriate curriculum catering to the different needs of different students in a classroom is the way to help students tap into their capabilities.
It was once perceived that automation would not impact cognitive routine tasks. However, research has shown that the perception is false. A curriculum ought to be designed such that students of today are innovative thinkers of tomorrow. Research suggests that soon collaboration and communication will happen through apps. Thus, it is essential that today’s students are IT fluent and able to exercise their creativity and critical-thinking skills.