How should education evolve in the future? Should we teach what we taught in the past better and faster? Most of the current use of technology in education are based on the above presupposition: online learning platforms to replace pen and paper of basically the same curriculum; using digital media to enhance lesson delivery. These are good and necessary innovations to keep up with times and learners’ needs, but I believe the future requires educators like myself to innovate at a more fundamental level.
Jeffrey Funk, a technology consultant retired from the National University of Singapore Faculty of Engineering, wrote in an article “Let’s make university education more practical” (Straits Times, 21 July 2017) shared that “in all the professions, using productivity-enhancing tools, understanding what will be next for the tools and their impact on work, and even being the ones to devise the next generation of tools are becoming increasingly important tasks in a professional’s career. Surprisingly, these issues are rarely covered in university programmes because of two simple facts: university courses are taught from academic journals and journals do not cover these issues because they focus on theory, not practice” (He) found that “even engineering faculties do not discuss the increasing automation of work although their graduates develop the productivity-enhancing tools. Instead, they emphasise the science and mathematics that are covered by journals and thus engineers become much more skilled at understanding explanations for physical phenomena and doing low-level calculations than at understanding productivity-enhancing tools or developing real products and services.”
This disparity between academic and the “real” world is a worrying trend. Being grounded in the present is important, but with tectonic changes happening so rapidly, even being prepared for the present may not be sufficient to be future-ready. We need a new lens to seek a new paradigm.
I believe that the future of education is the education about the future. Educators need to be grounded in the present, understand what is happening in the world now, the rate of change, where it might be moving towards, and allow that to inform us to change our curriculum content and competencies. We need to teach students the skill to prospect their future. Futurist Dr Peter C. Bishop advocated that we should teach as much about the future as we do about the past. Strategic Foresight provides the methodology (see our our article What is Strategic Foresight) to interpret the possible futures and plan the road map for our desired future. One identified plausible future/ tectonic change is the revolution of artificial intelligence (refer Speech by technology venture capitalist Lee Kai-fu at Engineering School of Colombia University, 15 May 2017), which implies that more and more productivity-enhancing tools will require human to level up with higher-order thinking skills, like critical thinking, creative thinking, and research skill. Equipping our students and educators, how to look into the future, can effectively shape their present plans, so that they can thrive and not miss the mark.
In the context of Christian education, since I am teaching Research in a Bible school, being future-ready would requires me to overhaul the curriculum. Starting the first lesson with Strategic Foresight will help my students see the need for the change in emphasis, and hopefully increase their motivation for self-directed learning. In the past, Research classes focus almost entirely on writing skill, like formatting and footnoting. We now have software like Zotero and MS Word templates that can handle these issues. So lots of content will need to be cut, to make space to develop research reading and thinking skill. Reading skills that include cursory reading, critical reading, and exercises on how to discern good sources from mediocre ones in the library. Thinking skills that focus on critical thinking to frame the central research question, creative thinking to hypothesise, and analytic thinking to present one’s argument. Reflective thinking will also links research to spirituality, which is so lacking in many research classes. As educators, it is our God-given responsibilities to look into the future to help students thrive there.