Classrooms and science centres of the future will be ‘phygital’ experiences, a combination of the interactive physical world and the power of digitisation that is available through mobile technology, the Internet and the Metaverse. It is anticipated that there will be a continuous symbiosis between the physical and digital dimensions to ensure that they add value to each one another. But, in doing so, we need to take care that the technology tail does not wag the educational dog!
Sahle-Work Zewde, the president of Ethiopia, and Audrey Azaoulay, chairperson of the International Commission on the Future of Education, have called for a drastic re-think on education worldwide, not only on what we teach but also on how we teach it. They argue that adapting existing educational practices will not fix the severe educational imbalances in the world (especially in Africa) and that a totally new approach is needed.
This new approach should ensure that all school leavers have a foundation of basic competencies that equip them for further education, training, employment, and civic participation. Their basic education should also equip them to grapple with the major challenges that face humankind this century, including the need to embrace human diversity, preserve biodiversity, fight climate change and adapt to technological disruptions, and take full advantage of the changed ways in which we live, work, play, communicate, process knowledge. and learn in the digital age.
Felleng Yende, the award-winning CEO of the Fibre Processing and Manufacturing (FP&M) sector education and training authority (SETA) in South Africa, has risen to these challenges. She believes that much more needs to be done to promote mathematics and science education at a school level, especially among girl learners, as these subjects are key to their development as future leaders in the 4IR.
She recommends that school curricula should be reviewed and that subjects should be promoted that will make it possible for learners to become big data analysts, scientists, AI and machine-learning specialists, digital transformation specialists and robotics engineers. She also states that we are producing far too many learners that become dependent on formal employment and claims that there are huge opportunities for learners who have an entrepreneurial flair. She, therefore, argues that entrepreneurship and business skills must be prioritised at the school level. This challenge needs to be met by schools in the formal education sector as well as by museums and science centres in the non-formal education sector.
The leading science museums in Africa are constantly striving to re-invent themselves in order to stay relevant. Many have evolved away from being curiosity cabinets to becoming agents of social change that actively promote public benefit initiatives such as sustainable living and the development of life skills. Their focus has shifted away from collecting objects to actively engaging with communities and becoming community hubs as well as centres for knowledge dissemination and spaces for dialogue and innovation. They are placing more emphasis on access to all levels of society, redressing past imbalances and promoting national development, and less emphasis on documenting the past. They are future-focused.
Multi-media experiences and AR and VR interactive displays in science centres and museums have a key role to play in implementing these new educational agendas and trajectories. Furthermore, educators are now bracing themselves for the onslaught of Generation Alpha (children born between 2010 and 2015), who will soon replace Generation Z as the new kids on the block.
Generation Alpha is the first batch of children born to millennials. They are likely to be even more tech-savvy, game-changing and challenging than their parents, having been brought up with screens as their babysitters and toys. Furthermore, 2010, the year of the generational divide, was also the year when the first iPad appeared, Instagram was invented, and ‘app’ was the ‘Word of the Year’. Generation Alpha’s influence in Africa and globally is going to be massive!
We must help them to reach their full potential!