New technology will require changes to education, says Pearson
Middle East region under pressure to change education to meet 21st century workplace demands
New technologies will cause major disruption to business and to the labour market, and the Middle East is likely to be particularly affected by these changes, according to education specialist Pearson.
Citing a recent report from the World Economic Forum, entitled ‘The Future of Jobs', Pearson warned that technology including artificial intelligence and machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, and genetics and biotechnology will cause widespread disruption and require a major rethink in approaches to education and training in the next five years.
Frank Edwards, Head of Workforce Development at Pearson Middle East, said that with high youth unemployment and a pressing need to diversify economies, the Middle East region is facing more pressure than elsewhere to adapt to the new demands of the labour market.
"As outlined in this report, the next few years will see widespread disruption in the workforce due to the technological revolution currently taking place, both here in the Middle East and around the world," said Edwards. "Some industries will go into decline, but others will grow and new industries will be created. Increasingly, new skill sets will be demanded by employers looking to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital revolution unfolding. Meeting this new demand will require fostering 21st Century skills in school, secondary and higher education, but we also need to look at providing those already working with ongoing training and development so they can maintain - and increase - their value in the workforce.
"Nowhere is preparing for future workforce disruption more important than in the MENA region where unemployment rates - at between 21 and 25% - are some of the highest in the world, and where a skills gap is already one of the most urgent challenges for policy makers and educators. We therefore need to heed the recommendations of this Report and start to look at ways we can prepare the current and future generation of workers for the future reality of the world of work," he added.
Rethinking existing approaches to education should be an immediate focus, according to the Report. The Report suggests that traditional, 20th Century practices in classrooms and lecture halls are hindering the development of a highly effective and flexible labour market. The Report recommends that industry consult more broadly with governments and educators so that education systems become more closely aligned with labour market needs.
Edwards said that embedding 21st century skills into all levels of curriculum, and providing learners with the transferable competencies employers demand is essential to building a future-ready flexible workforce.
"A 14-year old currently enrolled in high school will in all likelihood have a job in the future which does not even exist now. So how can we possibly educate that 14-year old for his future career? The answer is not about the content that we give to that student. The answer is about the general transferable competencies that an education can provide that student that are applicable across a variety of professions and industries," Edwards said.
"Communication, strategic, problem-solving and analytical skills are the skills that will help workers of the future succeed in work and become valuable to their employers. We therefore need to reassess the current focus of education on learning content and knowledge (although this remains important) and look to helping our students become proficient in the competencies that are most valued in the changing and dynamic world of work, both now and in the future."