A 4th Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR, is the fourth major industrial era since the initial Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. 

The Fourth Industrial Revolution can be described as a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, and impacting all disciplines, economies and industries. Central to this revolution are emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, and 3D printing (Wikipedia, 01/03/17)

The World Economic Forum, alongside departments of the OECD including CERI and PISA, recognise that with the advent of the 4th Industrial Revolution action must be taken to ensure that local, national and international systems of education work to prepare todays learners for tomorrows realities. We know that the world is changing fast and the common skills taught within schools today may not be relevant in 20, let along 10 years time. Jobs that do not require social skills nor the application of intuition or face to face communication will be replaced by the ever evolving automation and AI (a simple example of which is Netflix) systems already present.

While education systems are highly context-specific, consensus is emerging on key principles and core features that can best meet the challenges and maximise the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Education—as a process of engaging actively with learning throughout one’s life; cradle to the grave—has tremendous potential to prepare individuals for this new global reality and, if carefully designed and implemented, combat inequality and unlock the potential of individuals and entire economies. Given the breadth of the transformations required, governments, employers, educators and parents must work together to develop talent-rich economies that drive growth and enhance social cohesion. To achieve this at the local level it will take real community action, individuals working together to create and sustain an approach to education which is fit for this brave new world.

Key Principles and Core Features

A ‘Future-ready’ curricula

At the heart of any ‘future-ready’ education ecosystem are curricula designed to impart the knowledge and skills that have purchase in the modern workplace. Delivering subject specific lessons with closed skills such as that which has been delivered within schools since the 19th century no longer holds value to learners or to society now and into the future. Given the rapid evolution of the job market, most individuals relying on just one skill set or narrow expertise are unlikely to sustain long-term careers in economies of the future. A career focused education, again the central thread of many education systems today, is no longer valid. A profession focused education with a relentless focus upon the development of transferable and non context bound skills central to the ‘future-ready’ learner and professional is required.

There are two key components to getting this right:  first, what to teach; and, second, how to teach it. While acknowledging the wide range of pedagogical approaches around the world, there is a growing consensus that forward-looking curricula must focus on:

  • the linguistic, mathematical and technological literacies all job roles will require in the future;

  • ensuring the breadth and depth of subject knowledge and the ability to make inter-disciplinary connections;

  • developing global citizenship values, including empathy and character;

  • non- cognitive employability skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, project management and creativity.

To achieve the above requires much more than a didactic, teacher led and heavily structured approach to teaching and learning. It requires the empowerment of learners by educators and the curriculum. It requires an approach which shifts learning onto learners, one which enables the development of independence and mastery through interdependence and collaboration with others. Problem solving and enquiry driven learning with opportunities to engage with the real-world in an authentic education are also key.

We at Liberated Learning advocate for an approach to enquiry driven, interdisciplinary and highly authentic learning experiences are creating the means to prepare learners for the world. In addition to a pedagogical approach which enables choice, voice and personalisation a unique application of Collaborative Group Learning with the Team of 6 at its heart ensures learners come to see the benefits of learning with others, developing highly prized social skills and a recognition of their own learning processes. A collaborative approach to learning does not remove individuality, rather it prizes this with each individual able to come to know themselves and their relationship with others.

Regarding the second point, although education systems vary widely, there is consensus that curricula must be:

  1. updated and adapted on a rolling basis, based on insights and forecasting regarding the evolution of local and global labour markets and trends in skill demands;

  2. developed and revised collaboratively, with input from all relevant stakeholders, including businesses; and

  3. subject to regular review, in order to avoid the disruption and implementation time-lag associated with major but infrequent curricular overhauls.

Liberated Learning advocate for a Curriculum which is designed by teachers, guided by recognised standards, in collaboration with their peers, experts from within education, with the local community and with the students and parents, the curriculum is designed to serve. Every unit of learning, which lasts for a 1/2 term, designed to meet the specific needs of the class it is being delivered to. We are able to do this as we have the freedom to design our own curriculum and we have structured our school day, year and the curriculum itself to empower teachers to be designers, working with the support of a wider community to develop highly personalised and authentic learning experiences. Traditionally schools deliver the same curriculum year after year with no thought about the changing nature of the teacher or the learner. A highly structured curriculum skeleton which can be fleshed out in response to the needs of learners and their emerging interests is of great value.

It is also important to teach “how to learn” through experience-led approaches just as much as instruction- led ones, and by empowering students to be lifelong learners who take ownership of their upskilling throughout their lifetime. Broad, balanced curricula should also feature exposure to the workplace, with an eye toward professionalizing the future workforce. Internships, mentoring, access to employer networks and site visits, for example, can all contribute to the work-readiness of young people, helping them envision a variety of career paths and equipping them with the relevant competencies.

Digital  Fluency

Technology is rapidly altering the ways we interact and work, linking communities and workers in increasingly sophisticated ways and opening up new opportunities. In that sense, it has become a language, one that individuals must master from an early age if they are to thrive in the modern workplace and society. This is why a Curriculum should not just deliver additional Maths Literacy (Numeracy) and English Literacy Masterclasses but we will also appoint and explicitly teach Digital Literacies and intelligences. Technology should thus be embedded across the educational experience to mirror its relevance in all sectors and careers. In addition to basic digital literacy, i.e. the possession of digital skills and an understanding of what to do with them, education should go further, by giving learners a deep understanding of how to apply and innovate with technology so they can play an active role in shaping the tools of the future. It is critical to ensure curricula are kept up-to-date, and teachers have regular opportunities to refresh their own skills and knowledge. All learners should be given access to online and technological learning tools and given the means to master not only online learning but also the skills to master the digital realm including programming and App development. An explicit  and intergarted approach to developing digital fluency should be a feature of curriuclum.

While increasing the STEM-literacy of the population is certainly very important, currently these subjects are often taught in a way that reinforces a disconnect between sciences and humanities and existing education gender gaps, and focuses on theory over application and experiential learning. This is why we support a Core curriculum organised into STEM and Humanities strands. Each unit of learning and enquiry posing a challenging question which will enable learners to combine STEM and Humanities knowledge and skills in an active process of solving the given problem.

A new deal on Lifelong Learning

Building a lifelong learning culture in the workplace entails moving from “education for employment” to “education for employability” and from “job security” to “career security”. This is a central role of a modern and ‘future-ready’ education system. To be ready to navigate the world of ever shifting employment and to be in a position to actively participate with the world a school must ensure that each and every learner has the attributes, skills and capacities of the lifelong and lifewide learner. School should not just serve the purpose of reaching the short term goal of getting every student a set of GCSE grades. Eyes should be firmly on the future and on ensuring learners have the skills they need to be successful across their long and prosperous lives.

A lifelong learning  culture must include learner-centred approaches, adapted to the needs and interests of the individual and encompassing a wide range of skills and training, rather than traditional subject-focused learning. This is why curriculum should be

  • enquiry driven;

  • deals with real-world problems;

  • is interdisciplinary;

  • is highly personalised;

  • is highly authentic;

  • serves the local community;

  • is facilitated through collaborative group learning; and

  • enables educators to shape the curriculum to ensure they meet the needs and interest of all learner under their care.

Openness to education innovation

Whether as part of lifelong learning or formal education, and whether in the context of developed or developing economies, technology presents opportunities to deliver learning in innovative and personalised ways. It could change the role of the teacher in future education systems, and potentially allow for a deeper and broader learning experience. New research from pedagogy, psychology, neuroscience and other fields also indicates areas for innovation and a more evidence-based approach to education.

Education must be open to innovation and not fearful of it. It must be forward looking and not stuck in the 19th century.

The above post is drawn from the White Paper: World Economic Forum (January 2017) ‘Realizing Human Potential in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. An Agenda for Leaders to Shape the Future of Education, Gender and Work’
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