How is 4IR relevant in South African Schools?
by Nicole Ferreira | Visitor Liaison Manager |
South Africa is typical of many third world countries where there are vast discrepancies in the standard of education across the population spectrum. One can hardly compare likes of a Michael House or a St John’s, to a prefabricated rural school in the heart of Limpopo, and yet every year both sides of the spectrum produce a new batch of matriculants entering either the workforce or the tertiary education space.
It is incongruous to believe that pupils who attended schools without running water and ablution facilities, not to mention science labs or computers, can compete with those who have experienced education standards comparable to the best in the world.
But they do. They have no other choice.
How do we bridge the chasm between the two?
Technology is the answer here. In the poorest communities, almost everyone has access to smart technology. Wherever there is a smart phone, there is an opportunity to access quality information. Technology is bridging the gap between the wealthy and the disadvantaged and giving everyone a more equal chance of success.
Many people feel that trying to implement 4IR skills in a system that is in essence still rudimentary, (our education system in rural and disadvantaged areas), is ludicrous and that we should start by getting the basics in place first. I disagree. That could take years, and we do not have the time to wait for funding and infrastructure deficits to be met.
Online learning spaces are mushrooming, making it possible for anyone with an internet connection and motivation to learn skills they would otherwise not have had access to. It is up to teachers to upskill themselves and pass this knowledge on to the youth.
The government initiative of adding coding and robotics to the curriculum is a huge step forward in preparing children for a more relevant future. I am in contact with people in different career paths daily who say that their lives would be simplified if they had a basic coding knowledge. Adding coding to the school curriculum does not mean that everyone will be forced into an IT career, but it does mean that most jobs will be augmented with a fundamental knowledge of coding for basic applications.
Automation is the name of the game. Knowing how to automate systems, allows seamless fluidity in all areas of life. No matter if one wants to become an engineer, a carpenter, or an environmentalist, a certain aspect of the job entails automation and having the skills to do this is crucial to productivity.
We do not live in the same world we used to live in two decades ago. Evolution has taken centuries to get us to this point, but thanks to the enormity of recent discoveries and innovations, we will be able to quickly and efficiently skip over some of the steps and fast track progress. Technology and 4IR implementation in schools means that not only those who can afford a private school education will have access to quality information and education, but the question remains: Will schools find a way to make the most of this brave step, or will it become another subject that is glossed over due to a lack of teacher training in this field?