65th Independence Anniversary: time check for 4IR driven education system

65th Independence Anniversary: time check for 4IR driven education system

Time-check, it’s time to retire traditional pedagogies. One thing is sure: we cannot go back to teaching the way we have been doing so far in teacher-based classrooms, wherby children are taught to regurgitate information designed to measure how much content they can remember.

There is a growing sense of urgency to adopt Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and data analytics in education. Many advanced countries are far ahead with this agenda, however, developing countries including Ghana are still trying to find their feet in this new era.

For Ghana, a country that prides itself as the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence and the beacon of Africa, a moment like this- 65th Independence Anniversary, clearly should be a time to reflect on its educational system and consider the way forward, especially with the implementation of pragmatic policies that fast-track its 4IR drive.

The footprint of 4IR in education as has been seen in other developed countries includes widespread customisation of learning, automated assessment, digitisation, and portability of student records, as well as industry-academia partnership training.

One may likely say that we are beginning to see traces of this in our educational system in recent times, especially with the advent of COVID-19. However, the policies, implementation guidelines, technology adaption and infrastructure provision as well as its mass rollout in every second cycle school and above are the major challenges.

65th Independence Anniversary: time check for 4IR driven education system

Why Ghana Needs to be 4IR Conscious

The digital revolution is transforming work landscape, organisational operation and nearly every aspect of human daily lives. This revolution has already taken over homes across both the developed and developing world and it is transforming the way children and young people access information, communicate, learn and even play.

However, this revolution has not transformed the whole of the educational landscape and it will take some time for it to really gain momentum. This will require deliberate efforts backed by policies.

The role of an educated human capital and technology in a country’s long-term growth potential is very critical and its significance cannot be overemphasised.

A careful observation of the country’s history shows that since independence in 1957, the leaders had focused on using education to answer the questions of technology, productivity, and the economic potential of the country.

To most experts, education was geared towards solving the Ghanaian problem. However, there have been changes in our educational agenda, prominent among them are the 1987 and 2007 educational reforms.

Although these two reforms were properly conceived, they were implemented in a way that made it impossible to realise their full benefits. The introduction of the Junior Secondary School (JSS) and Senior Secondary School (SSS) to replace the old system of O’ Level and A’ Level has been one of the defects of the 1987 Educational Reform according to some educationists.

In fact, some have attributed the challenges in our current educational system, in terms of structure and content, to this reform.

As the Executive Director of IFEST, Peter Anti, puts it, someone who is a product of the 1987 educational reform will not be quick to pass  judgment on it, but say that a critical study of the reform brings to fore the good intentions of the policymakers; however, the problem of resources and lack of commitment to the implementation process led to the non-realisation of objectives of that reform.

“65 years after the take-off in the educational sector, supported with the fact that other countries with a robust educational sector have been able to transform their economy, it would have been ideal to see a transformed Ghana championed by an education system designed to address the challenges of our time.

Sadly, we are currently faced with graduate unemployment. What it means is that, we are investing in education and yet the products of our educational system cannot be absorbed by the economy. The reasons for these are enormous but if in 1957, the focus was to use education to solve the problems of technology, productivity and how to harness the economic potential of the country, why have we not made progress?” he quizzed.

If this situation is true, then Ghana cannot afford to be left behind this time around that the world is considered a global village; not forgetting the coming into place of Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Adopting new realities

The continuing developments in educational technology, and mobile devices and are providing the end user i.e. students more flexibility in accessing and controlling the creation and sharing of knowledge.

These advances empower students, instructors and faculties in finding new ways to take advantage of how much control students have, thereby increasing their motivation to learn, especially when the right technology is available.

Preparing students for evolving industries 

The 4IR also referred to as ‘Cyber-physical systems (CPSs)’ where technologies take center stage of things, are steadily becoming more integrated into various industries, inevitably affecting the skills requirements for employees.

Research by McKinsey Digital revealed that due to the fourth industrial revolution, 60 percent of all occupations could potentially have at least a third of their activities automated.

For the education system to continue to produce successful graduates, institutions must prepare their students for a world where these cyber-physical systems are prevalent across all industries.

By aligning teaching and learning methods with the skills needed in the future, Senior High Schools, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions and universities can be sure they are successfully preparing their students for the fourth industrial revolution.

Project-based learning which highlights the importance of studying a wide set of skills that can then be applied to each scenario is preferred, as opposed to sticking to a set of skills directly linked to a specific job role.

Undoubtedly, in order to produce more graduates who are prepared to take on the future state of employment, universities must evolve and accept that changes to some traditional processes are inevitable.

In conclusion, 65 years of producing graduates who do not fit into the job market is enough. Enough of the lamentation of a disconnection between education and industry, the time is now let’s use this anniversary as a means to rethink and focus on the future with 4IR in mind.

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