Future Vocation & Skills: Thoughts @ Indian Education Congress 2014

Indian Education Congress 2014: Some thoughts on future vocations and skills

1. If we want to transform vocational education and skills development to align with the emerging challenges and opportunities, we have to move forward disruptively. It may be worthwhile to recall that when the IITs were created, there were reputed colleges like Roorkee, Banaras, Guindy, Jadavpur, Bangalore, Calcutta, Poona and Bombay. But IITs launched a new forward and International oriented model of Engineering education. And history was created.
2. We therefore need to move ahead of the ITIs, Polytechnics and various Skill councils to create a new model of massive skills development benefitting from the new realities. The Internet is now 25 years old, mobile phones have become ubiquitous and many convergences have resulted in a new way of looking at the education space.
3. In the past we had academic discipline based formal education, which was largely about declarative knowledge, professional education and vocational education that was about procedural knowledge and skills training. This was suitable for a hierarchical command and control structures. But in an innovation economy its relevance is minimal.
4. In the new working space we have the trinity of ” vision, dreaming, thinking” and ” tinkering, designing, innovating, ” and ” making, sharing, experiencing”.
These three dimensions combine to give a range of skills that give each skilled person a unique and valuable creative identity.
5. The old model where we thought we have to created millions of skilled technicians in a finite number of well defined and standardised skills is a model for the past, and ignores the fact that every learner and worker is a unique ‘human’ being. The old model was creating human looking ‘robots’ because robotics wasn’t sufficiently developed.
6. Now we have not only robots with a high degree of intelligence and mobility, but we also have the Internet of things that can connect almost every device to every other device via the cloud. Projections indicate that by 2020 the number of devices connected to the
Internet would be about 50 billion. The neat distinction between low level vocational engineers or technicians and highly education engineers and technocrats will become a continuum, with individuals showing a combination of attributes that make them all unique, a “sui generis” in their competency profiles ( like their finger prints or DNA).

7. Our world is being very fundamentally and rapidly transformed by a number of powerful technologies that will disruptively change our living and work style from the present Industrial Age . Specific mention needs to be made of the following 10 technologies. Since these are quite new and under rapid development, they may change in the next few years , so I am using the legalish phrase ” following technologies and their heirs, successors and assigns”
7.1: The Internet of Things: Twine and wearable computing
7.2: IP version 6
7.3: The Outernet : project LOON from Google
7.4: Raspberry Pi
7.5: Arduino
7.6: Drones
7.7: 3D Printers: thingiverse
7.8: SPAUM: Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network ; modelling of the human brain
7.9: IBM Watson : Machine Intelligence competing with human Intelligence
7.10: Big Data and Analytics

8. This changes the set of skills needed. They change from being able to manually perform low level tasks to skilfully perform very challenging operations. The 10 skills for the future workforce:
8.1: Sense Making
8.2: Social Intelligence
8.3: Novel & Adaptive Thinking, including Entrepreneurial Thinking
8.4: Cross-Cultural Competency
8.5: Computational Thinking
8.6: New-media Literacy
8.7: Transdisciplinary, Interdisciplinary and Innovative thinking
8.8: Design Mindset
8.9: Cognitive Load Management
8.10: Virtual Collaboration

9. Key elements of the new model for new age skills development:
9.1: Quick initial training, not exceeding 3 months, then on the job continual occupational development through Tablet and handheld learning.
9.2: Use simulation, gaming, gesture computing, Analytics, personalisation
9.3: Know your learner : learner dispositions; are we programming robots or teaching skills to humans
9.4: Accelerate the learning curve. Josh Kaufmann’s learning anything in 20 hours. A full time learner devotes 1000 hours a year on learning. So a complete transformation in one year.
9.5: Levels of accomplishment : A 10 point scale from 0 to 9. Beginning with ignorant at the lowest and concluding with excellent at the highest.
9.6: Deploying new pedagogical models: MOOCs, Flipped Classroom, heutagogy, mastery learning, adaptive learning, seamless learning, social learning etc.

10. The call for action:
10.1: Ignore Government systems: move beyond; analogy to water purification and inverters and generators for power backup and supplement
10.2: Set up an observatory for future skills : their evolution, demand and longevity.
10.3: Industry certification through badges:
10.4: Encourage independent trainers

11. The time to move is now. If not now, then when? And if not us then who?
Margaret Mead has an inspiring exhortation “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”.

12. There is a recent talk by Ken Robinson on education’s death (dormant) valley from which I draw the following to your attention and consideration:
There’s a wonderful quote from Benjamin Franklin. “There are three sorts of people in the world: Those who are immovable, people who don’t get, they don’t want to get it, they’re going to do anything about it. There are people who are movable, people who see the need for change and are prepared to listen to it. And there are people who move, people who make things happen.” And if we can encourage more people, that will be a movement. And if the movement is strong enough, that’s, in the best sense of the word, a revolution. And that’s what we need.

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