At the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, leaders from all over the world discussed today’s complex issues and their implications for the future: “How do we make sure technology makes life better not worse? How do we create a fairer economy?
At the core of these discussions are two things: knowledge and, more importantly, translating that knowledge into impactful actions. The catalyst for this translation is education – not just because it provides us with the required tools but also because, to say it in the words of Nelson Mandela, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
As such, in order to overcome today’s obstacles, we need to anticipate tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities for education – and that is what this article aims to do.
To make valuable and sustainable decisions, we need to create scenarios that go beyond ‘what if’ and instead ask ‘then what?’. When you take a look around, many field experts agree on one critical uncertainty that will (perhaps) shape the future of education more than any other: the degree & type of technological advancements adopted in education. So, what would the world look like for someone –
let’s call her Ayla – who lives in the year 2050 in a world where technology is commonplace in education around the world?
Instead of going to school – a highly inefficient, ineffective, and expensive endeavor – Ayla and her friends experience education through virtual reality from the comfort of their own homes or, when the weather is nice, from the park.
Moving to the virtual sphere decreased the cost of education so drastically that accessing high-quality education is now a given for every child in the world.
Ayla is witnessing this change with her own eyes every day: new solutions to environmental challenges pop up everywhere; her grandparents who had lived modest lives are now 110 years old and still in good health; and she knows at least 20 successful social startups in her immediate family alone.
This low-cost accessibility of high-quality education has also made typical university degrees – which her grandmother still proudly displays in her living room – less valuable; the words ‘Harvard’ or ‘Oxford’ have simply lost their appeal.
Ayla is thankful for this change because she would never have been able to afford an Ivy League education; in fact, the idea to leave her home to accumulate an insane amount of debt for a piece of paper seems ridiculous to her and her friends. She is living in a time where the impact is valued more than a brand that is banking on historical reputation,
The idea to leave her home to accumulate an insane amount of debt for a piece of paper seems ridiculous.
She is happy that her current employer hired her because of who she is rather than where she (or her parents) went to school. Especially when she thinks about her grandfather’s stories about his first job, Ayla appreciates the change that technology has brought to education. Instead of learning something that becomes obsolete the second, it is taught, she had the privilege to get an updated curriculum the second anything changed.
Ayla is also quite happy that she never had to learn tedious skills for which she would be outperformed by any basic technology anyway; in contrast, Ayla was taught how to be an X Leader: a person that influences without authority, gives first without expecting a return, has a vision beyond herself, drives exponential impact, and nurtures more exponential leaders in the process – and best of all, she learned these skills practically through a personalized experience tailored to her strengths, weaknesses, and goals in life.
Ayla was taught how to be an X Leader: a person that influences without authority gives first without expecting a return, has a vision beyond themselves, drives exponential impact, and nurtures more exponential leaders.
A beautiful thought experiment, isn’t it? Now, you may argue – and rightfully so – that this glimpse into the future cherry-picks the most preferred outcome of technological disruption. But the thing is, whichever color we use to paint a picture of the future, we are likely to be wrong anyway – and that is ok.
The point of this scenario is to showcase a possible version of future education that does not render us helpless when we encounter something challenging like inequality or technological innovations, but that lets us thrive in this uncertainty instead.
And since our beliefs about the future translate into our actions today, we owe it to Ayla and future generations at large to do our best to turn this utopia into reality. With all this uncertainty there is only one thing we know for sure: we need to prepare ourselves for the future of education and aim for the stars so that even if we fail.
Editors Note: This vision is already taking shape and Google is changing the future of work and higher education: It’s launching a selection of professional courses that teach candidates how to perform in-demand jobs. All at the fraction of the cost of a college degree and in less than six months.
How are YOU preparing for the future?
Ameerah Langer is the Chief Of Staff @ Fasset in the UAE. She focuses on impact-driven Islamic finance with a diverse project portfolio in sectors that include impact investment, startup incubation, philanthropy, education, the arts, journalism, and social justice.
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