• Provided By : Regent Business School
President Ramaphosa’s merger of the Department of Science & Technology with the Department of Higher Education and Training is perhaps propitious, especially given that the new educational imperatives of the Digital Era. The unification would assist in connecting science to the overall developmental challenges of the country through innovative policies and strategies. This reasoning has merit in that education has to be a catalyst to address the multi-faceted problems confronting the nation.
Notwithstanding this rationale, the need to shape the future technologies for innovation and bridging the Digital Divide, is essential to prepare our youth for the new skills requirements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and employability.
We are living in a time of accelerated change and disruption in which society faces increasing pressure to evolve its systems and processes to meeting the demand of the 21st century and beyond. Within this perspective education is the most sophisticated social technology of societal transformation and yet it is still a widely underutilised pathway for co-creating and contributing to sustainable regenerative and thriving futures. Education has to become an avenue through which society will overcome the gaps and barriers it has created, especially the growing economic and social inequality and the extreme ecological pressures we are placing on our planet.
Paradoxically our educational ecosystems are still designed for the world of yesterday. They need to be changed to meet the demands of the future including increasing social and economic complexity in all domains of human life. The time is opportune to re-conceptualise the purpose and design of education. We need nothing less than a renaissance in education that demands a transformation in learning – a lifelong learning.
The future growth and stability of South Africa’s economy depends on the ability of our education ecosystem to prepare our students for career opportunities and help them attain higher levels of achievement.
They simply lack the necessary skills and competencies of the digital era job market. The complexity of the challenge calls for a bold and timely response. We need a solution that will assist us to leapfrog the costly stages in the development and expansion of a new education system – one that will enable existing educational institutions to integrate 21st century skills into demanding curricula.
Higher education institutions will have to be transformed in ways that will enable students to acquire the creative thinking, flexible problem solving, collaboration and innovative skills.
These new skills and competencies will effectively contribute to bridge the gap between learning and work and to improve graduate job readiness, thus reducing the current shortage of skills in the workplace and the ever too frequent education-job mismatch.
A new Pan-African platform of higher education institutions, Honoris United Universities, is acutely aware of these new demands on higher education and has thus adopted a philosophy of ‘education for impact’ at the core of its curriculum development and student experience strategies. Regent Business School a member of this platform has established two Innovation hubs at its campuses: the iLead Lab and the Honoris Collective Lab.
These creative spaces offer the latest exponential technologies and learning experiences which students and community members can use to help carry out their ideas and create innovative enterprises. With courses such as robotics, coding, 3D design and printing students can produce anything from drones to robots using open-source technologies and rapid prototyping tools like 3-D printers and other manufacturing techniques.
Through these new innovations, we are challenging the idea of a traditional classroom by exploring how physical and virtual environments can affect and improve not only learning but empower the youth and unemployed individuals to become innovative entrepreneurs or at the least become productive members of an inclusive economy.
Finally, we need to be reminded that transforming higher education is more necessary now than ever before. However, the challenges ahead have to be considered in order to ensure effective and immediate transformation. Furthermore, higher education leadership needs to be less risk averse especially in this world of disruptive change. It is no longer an option to keep doing things the old way. A re-conceptualised education ecosystem to bridge the digital gap for innovation, employability and entrepreneurship demands it.