Talking Points: Lifelong Learning
Talking Points is a semi-regular series where we highlight some of the key topics discussed at a Generation T keynote, fireside chat or panel discussion.
The gap between what we learn in the classroom and the issues that have to be dealt with in the boardroom has arguably never been bigger.
In the not-too-distant future, automation will threaten 47 percent of jobs in the United States and 77 percent of jobs in China, according to a report by Oxford Martin School. Our children’s schools can change, and need to change, but what about the billions-strong workforce of today?
Three Generation T honourees in the field of education joined a Gen.T panel discussion at the Yidan Prize Summit to discuss the importance of vocational education and the future of work—how companies, individuals and governmental organisations must adapt to face the widening disparity between what we were taught in schools and the skills required to thrive in the modern world.
Peggy Choi is on a mission to democratise access to knowledge. Her cloud-based, knowledge sharing platform Lynk builds bridges between entrepreneurs and the expertise they need to drive them forward. Businesses of all sizes, from multinationals to startups, can connect with more than 50,000 experts via Lynk’s data-driven service.
Arnold Chan’s non-profit Teach4HK enlists outstanding university graduates to serve in schools attended by underprivileged children by offering one-year teaching fellowships. The aim? To improve access to quality education for the students in the schools, and, in the fellows, to develop a group of future leaders that drive systematic change in education.
Lavine Hemlani’s ed-tech startup Xccelerate is helping to bridge the tech talent gap by offering individuals and companies the opportunity to upgrade their skills in the fields of artificial intelligence, software engineering and blockchain.
Here are the highlights from their discussion.
The world has changed—and education needs to change with it
Lavine Hemlani This isn’t the first time in history where the economy has changed and the job market is changing. What’s different this time is the magnitude—today things are changing at a much faster pace and to an almost unfathomable scale. In the past, labour markets were in smaller, more segregated pockets and had decades to reach equilibrium. Now everything is connected—technology means jobs are changing at a much faster pace.
Arnold Chan If you look at Nathan Road 50 years ago and you look at it today, it’s very different. But if you look at a classroom 50 years ago and you look at one today, it’s the same. We’re not teaching students the 21st century skills that are needed in the modern-day workplace—communication skills, presentation skills, and how to work with others. Kids are only taught how to pass exams.
Technology is the key to lifelong learning—but it needs to be available to all
Lavine If one instructor can train 20 students, great. But if you have a video and that can reach 20 million students, the economics of that education means whatever cost went in is now spread over 20 million people, thereby making it so much more accessible.
Arnold My teachers tell me that with some of the students they are serving right now, it takes a whole 40-minute session just to teach them how to log on to a computer. Of course, technology has a role to play in terms of accelerating learning, but when we talk about technology we have to make sure it’s on an equal playing field for everyone. An e-learning platform is great, but we need to make sure that everyone has access to those platforms.
It is possible to move away from exams as an education benchmark
Peggy Choi Plenty of adaptive learning models are still not being adopted to scale because we still have exams. Exams standardise things, so no matter how [customisable] your educational model, you still have to fit into a required standard. But there are now new technologies that can also [customise] exams, too.
Universities can learn a lot from the way vocational education centres are organised
Lavine Think of a degree like a playlist. A playlist is a number of songs and a degree is a number of skills or courses. But you might not want to listen to all those songs—who buys a playlist? We buy songs, right? A lot of what has to change with the university system, as has changed with the music industry, is this unravelling into segments. Students should be able to select from a list of skills they want to learn, and not be required to take certain courses that aren’t of any relevance to them.
In the workplace of the future, different skills will be valued
Peggy If you think about where we are in terms of access to information—just do a quick Google search and the information that’s thrown at you is increasing exponentially. But you need to know how to apply it and how to distinguish between good and bad information, and real and fake information. A lot of that comes from experience. For companies, it’s going to be very important to train employees to develop that experience.
Lavine Over the next 10 to 15 years, your [accumulated knowledge base] won’t really matter. All of that knowledge is available through the internet, through knowledge-based platforms. In the long run you won’t be hired for what you know; you’ll be hired for what you can figure out based on the knowledge out there.
And it is up to each one of us to develop a mindset where we are constantly open to learning new things
Arnold Everyone needs to be the CEO of their own learning.
Peggy You need to be in ‘permanent beta’—the mindset where you think of yourself in a beta testing mode all the time. Always trying to identify new areas where you can improve.
Quotes have been edited for brevity and clarity.
- Photography Tommy Tang/Hong Kong Tatler