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Future of learning: Focus on cooperation, not competition

Future of learning, cooperation, competition, education news, PISA, artificial intelligence, Adani, 

By Priti G Adani

The world is changing. AI and automation have revolutionised the world and will continue to do so. The world of robotics will displace many jobs over the next 10-15 years as the technical minds of bots are becoming capable of making decisions. Jobs of the future will require different skills and, therefore, the need for different educational requirements continues to emerge. To meet this demand, our education system needs to be forward-looking to promote adaptability and prepare people for uncertainty.

First and foremost, it requires tremendous effort towards changing the mindset of people who regulate the current education rules and norms by developing the mindset of educators who implement these standards and the learners. Changing the mindset involves encouraging flexibility rather than specialisation. It requires training and retraining teachers, as well as redesigning education policies and curriculum. It also requires careful hiring of teachers ready to unlearn and relearn.

Next, the curriculum itself must undergo a change. Entrepreneurship will have to become part of the curriculum as people will have to create jobs given the fact that we have super programmer robots, that learn themselves. Education curricula must be redesigned and reinvented to break down the barriers that exist between education and the real world. Emphasis must be on flipped classrooms, where theoretical parts are learnt outside and the practical part is taught face-to-face, interactively. For example, a grammatical concept such as 'types of the conjunction' is learnt by students using a video tutorial or researching on the topic outside the classroom.

Critical thinking and creativity must be at the core of the curriculum, along with problem-solving. For example, by introducing 'coding' and 'AI' as a structured curriculum in Adani Schools, we have taken a step to get our students ready for the future.

Content should be about giving choices on real-life problems that need to be solved and the learning should be built around such projects. An example of a project could be: "How can we predict and stop the spread of an infectious disease?" The final product could involve students calculating to develop an emergency response plan that contains specific recommendations and guidelines for counteracting and suppressing the spread of different types of communicable diseases and present these findings to public health officials or other community members. The emergency response plan could include a technical report showing students' mathematical models. So, concepts of algebra, science and language are interwoven along with developing the core skills of collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and adaptability. These will help learners learn in the classroom, as also from field study, experts and the community.

In the pursuit of developing these skills, our assessment needs a makeshift as well. It is not easy to translate competencies like 'critical thinking' into numerical values. 'Asessment for learning' is encouraging as it supports learning using a checklist of things. For instance, the assessment system of basic education in Finland, called the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)-which is administered to 15-year-old students in 57 countries every three years, and where Finland has scored first or second in mathematics on the past four administrations of the PISA. All this is due to the continuous assessment to support learning and not compare students with numerical values.

The role of educators needs to transform in the jungle of information that our students will be paving their way through. They will have to move away from their inclination to replicate what they experienced at the universities they came from, and be ready to adapt to the fact that 'learning happens in a variety of ways'.

Towards preparing our students for the uncertainty that exists in the future, schools must move away from the market-based approach, which focuses on competition. We must replace competition with cooperation, and greater attention must be paid on well-being, social and emotional development of the learner.

The onus of learning lies with the learner as well; she needs to move away from learning to memorise facts and figures; instead train on 'how to learn' and 'how to solve problems'. Learners need to understand that "learning is lifelong; it never stops." They need to be ready to take risks, accept failures, and turn them into opportunities. This requires developing a strong mindset, facilitated by parents and educators.

The author is chairperson, Adani Foundation. Views are personal.