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Calling on Africa for an education revolution

Peter Tabichi Correspondent
From Cape Town to Cairo, Africa is a continent bursting with promise. The African Development Bank puts GDP growth for African economies in 2019 at four percent — nearly double that of 2016 — paving the way for a more prosperous, open and inclusive future.

However, unless we skill the next generation to adapt to a rapidly changing world of work, these economic benefits will not be felt by those who need them most.

As the 28th World Economic Forum on Africa gathered in Cape Town early this month, the discussions brought into sharp focus the prizes and the perils of the Fourth Industrial Revolution as automation and AI could render obsolete jobs that have existed for centuries, while opening up industries that have never before been dreamed of.

Two-thirds of jobs in the developing world are threatened by automation, according to the UN, with robots replacing many of the low-skilled jobs that have already been shed or offshored in richer countries, meaning the impact will be greater on the world’s poorest nations.

Ethiopia is judged the most vulnerable country, where 85 percent of existing jobs are predicted to disappear. As always, it is Africa who risks the most and stands to reap the least reward unless we act now to prepare the next generation for this paradigm shift.

Africa is home to the world’s largest number of young people. The social consequences of the Fourth Industrial Revolution could mean a generation of frustrated and underemployed young people without a social safety net, prompting — as we have seen in other parts of the world in recent years — a destabilising force in a number of the world’s most fragile states.

The answer is simple: education. Africa must look to prepare the next generation of young people with the skills they will need for the jobs of tomorrow. New areas of employment will be created which we cannot entirely predict.

But the role of education as a vehicle to attain the highest standards and educate the necessary skillsets will be crucial. Currently, more than 61 million children from around the world still do not attend primary level education in sub-Saharan Africa. More and more young women are being excluded from education and the opportunities that await them.

The rote-learning culture, which can still be seen in many classrooms in Africa, is often failing to teach future skills such as creativity and critical thinking. And vitally, education cannot improve without well-trained and well-respected teachers.

UNESCO reports that only 64 percent of teachers in sub-Saharan Africa are trained. Across Africa, teacher absenteeism is an issue that needs to be tackled, with rates among primary school teachers ranging from 11 to 30 percent in developing countries according to the World Bank.

We now see a vicious cycle that fails to persuade the brightest to consider teaching as a career. To face the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, more teachers need to be employed, trained and retrained. Education funding is above all required to match this growing need.

Sadly, education aid has diminished since 2009 and is not concentrated on countries where the need is greatest. Sub-Saharan Africa, home to half of the world’s out of school children, received less than half of the aid to basic education in 2017 than it did in 2002.

Furthermore, those who attended the World Economic Forum in Cape Town now know that they have a role to work with the private and voluntary sectors to strengthen public education. Whether they provide financial assistance, technical support, or work experience, they can help bring a quality education for those to whom it has been denied.

They can also work to raise the required standards in Africa’s teachers. Fifty years ago, South Korea was a poor country with high levels of illiteracy. Within a few generations, it became a wealthy country, because it built one of the best education systems in the world, ready to take on the challenges of the future.

Responsive and responsible leadership will see the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and look to overcome them. As we stand at these crossroads, decision-makers and business leaders bear a huge responsibility not to miss this window of opportunity, to consider the common good and act now. What is needed is an education revolution. — newafricanmagazine.com

‘Parents’ role in child education critical’

Victor Maphosa Herald Correspondent

PARENTS play a pivotal role in their children’s education and in contributing to the attainment of Vision 2030, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Professor Paul Mavima has said.

He made the remarks last week while addressing parents and teachers during a tour of Kuwadzana 2 High School in Harare where the community working with the school are carrying out various projects aimed at improving the learning environment.

Among other projects, the school authorities working with the community have managed to build several blocks which include well-equipped two science laboratory blocks, an agriculture block, home economics block where metal work, art and other practical lessons are undertaken.

Speaking after the tour, Minister Mavima commended the community and the school authorities for the partnership which is aimed at improving the learning environment for the pupils.

“What I have seen here is commendable, I am happy with the commitment which has shown by parents working with the school authorities, they realised that a school is a foundation of national development,” he said.

In her address, Kuwadzana 2 High School head Mrs Mary Mupandawana commended the SDC for all the developments at the school.

“So far, they (SDC) have constructed the A’ Level science laboratory, Food Technology block, Agriculture shade and now they are working on this state-of-the-art administration block,” she said.

SDC chairperson Mrs Jeiel Sikurai appealed to Government for assistance in the completion of the administration block.

“Our appeal to the Honourable Minister is for donations mainly roofing material,” she said. “As a committee we are now having challenges with procurement of building material due to ever rising costs.”

Education for global citizenship

Emiliano Bosio Correspondent

The shift from pedagogically based academic values to market-based values over the past 30 years has signalled not only a change in the basic fundamentals of educational philosophy in tertiary education; it has also presented us with real-world crises of economic irresponsibility, displacement, exclusion, division and inequality.

As the once fatalistic inevitability of neoliberal ideology begins to be questioned and the world around us grows ever more interconnected, yet unstable and uncertain, university educators have shown a growing interest in global citizenship, signalling a shift in the responsibility and purpose of higher education to that of shaping more peaceful, tolerant and inclusive societies.

Although there are diverse interpretations of the notion of global citizenship, just as neoliberalism can be considered an ideology, global citizenship can also be considered a mentality — what HG Wells calls “mental cosmopolis” — as well as an objective moral claim as has been well described by the Danish inventor Piet Hein’s striking statement: “We are global citizens with tribal souls.”

Global citizenship is a figurative idea that can co-exist with national citizenship, a state of mind, a feeling of belonging, an attitude, a set of dispositions and practices that carry an important responsibility: to do good for the entire human community.

This may sound idealistic pie-in-the-sky, but if it took less than a generation to turn inquisitive young people from truth-seeking scholars to market-ready corporate “customers”, then there is no reason why we can’t at least try to achieve these lofty ideals.

Educating for global citizenship

A common understanding of educating for global citizenship in higher education is that it means supporting learners to develop a sense of belonging to a wide community, beyond national confines, that emphasises our common humanity and draws on the interconnectedness between peoples as well as between the local and the global.

From this perspective, education for global citizenship addresses themes such as peace and human rights, intercultural understanding, moral education, respect for diversity and tolerance and inclusiveness and it responds to globalisation by widening the concept of civic education to global society and adopting the ethical values of peace education and human rights education.

This global society perspective not only urges investigation of global topics, but, more specifically, merges the global and the local into the ‘glocal’, involving multiple stakeholders, including those outside the learning environment, in the community and in wider society.

In other words, global citizenship education is a forward-looking framework suggesting a reorientation of universities’ responsibilities, an orientation that adheres to the belief that knowing without acting is insufficient.

Higher education should make an effort, in this sense, to come to terms with increasingly urgent global situations, including staggering poverty, mass violence, hypermobile infectious diseases, disintegrating states, growing right-wing populist politics and overwhelming global warming along with the many incipient and related crises that the current neoliberal framework has helped to create and exacerbate.

Moving beyond the market-driven mobility experience

Educational practice at universities should then move beyond singular focus often manifested through the market-driven mobility experience. Although clearly beneficial and directly relevant, we must also consider the entire range of competencies underpinned by a cosmopolitan outlook.

To do this, I propose that higher education should adopt a ‘values-based’ curriculum. A values-based curriculum engages the learner on multiple levels. Lessons emanating from a values-based curriculum should foster in our learners at least five areas:

• An understanding and acceptance of their obligations to all humanity.

• A belief in the possibility of making a difference in the world.

• Looking inward to assert a compassion that begins with the local communities they will interact with.

• Multicultural respect with a view that students should become socialised into living successfully in a global society.

• Civic commitment and global consciousness, including participation in community development and involvement in work that has public meaning and lasting public impact, with students coming to realise that their own choices can make a difference.

Education is not complete, however, until students have not only acquired knowledge but can act on that knowledge in the world. Bridging the gap between learning and participation is essential, with study abroad as an invaluable complement to academic training and an incredible affirming experience for our identity.

In times like these, we need to respect the value of knowledge more than ever. We need the capacity for critical thought and analysis and we need educators in higher education committed to creating these values.

As universities nurture the next generation of political leaders, middle managers, aid agency workers, financial consultants, tech entrepreneurs, teachers, volunteers, YouTubers and first-time voters who are forced to operate in the pervasive dog-eat-dog world of noeliberalistic late-capitalism, universities and those actors who populate them should develop the wisdom to recognise the interconnectedness of all human lives, the courage to attempt to comprehend people of different walks of life and the compassion to maintain a creative empathy that reaches beyond one’s immediate contexts.

Who knows, it might even prove to be an effective antidote to the malevolent neoliberalism that defines our times. – University World News

Emiliano Bosio is a PhD candidate at the UCL Institute of Education, University College London, United Kingdom. He currently lectures at Yokohama City University, Japan.

New higher education literacies for a sustainable future

Patrick Blessinger, Enakshi Sengupta and Mandla Makhanya
As the world becomes more interconnected and interdependent, nations face increasing pressure to improve their political, economic, social, technological and environmental infrastructures in order to compete in an increasingly globalised world.

Within this context, perhaps the most fundamental and important component of any nation in the 21st century is its educational system. As societies become more complex — economically, socially, technologically and otherwise — so must their educational systems.

To this end, nations have responded by creating diverse educational systems that now consist of many different types of educational institutions, including trade schools, technical colleges, community colleges, liberal arts colleges and research universities, among others.

In a complex society, a one-size-fits-all approach is unable to address all the varied needs of society. Therefore, a highly diverse educational system is seen by many as one of the keys to the promotion of economic growth and social development.

Creating a smarter and higher quality educational system

However, institutional diversity alone will not address all the problems facing societies around the world. Regardless of the type of institution, new literacies are also needed to address not just the economic demands of society but also the growing complexity of global problems facing the world.

Thus, we must now move from a diverse educational system to a more inclusive and equitable educational system based on democratic and rights-based principles, which is illustrated by the following rights-based educational model.

By moving towards an educational system based on democratic and rights-based principles, societies are more likely to address the complex and wide-scale problems facing the planet, such as global climate change, sustainable development, democratic reforms and universal rights (human, animal and environmental rights).

This approach to education provides a roadmap to help secure a universal right to education at all levels that is inclusive and equitable.

New literacies for the 21st century

As depicted in the rights-based educational model, the ultimate goal is to achieve an inclusive and equitable education system that prepares all people to succeed in the 21st century.

In addition to increasing globalisation, today’s societies are also in the midst of transitioning from a carbon-based economy to a green economy which has huge implications for how students are educated and how societies function.

This transition has become necessary due to global warming, deforestation and desertification, among other factors, which, in turn, have huge impacts on delicate interconnected ecosystems, food chains and overall quality of life.

In addition, new demands for food, water, sanitation and other basic living requirements, brought about by rapid growth in urbanisation and the world’s population, require not only innovative technological solutions but also a new humanistic paradigm and way of thinking that address these problems on a global scale.

Thus, educational institutions must implement new teaching and learning approaches, which are all inter-related and inter-dependent, to more effectively deal with these changes:

Inquiry-based learning (problem-based and research-based learning).
Creative learning (experiential and product-based learning).
Meaningful learning (relevant and holistic learning).
Humanistic learning (inclusive and equity-based learning).

Moving beyond basic literacy and numeracy

Traditionally, educational systems have mainly focused on literacy (reading and writing) and numeracy (mathematics and quantitative reasoning) as the main focus of educating students.

In other words, traditionally, teaching and learning has been focused mainly on the consumption of existing knowledge and skills, which is depicted as levels one and two of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.

Of course, the consumption of existing knowledge and skills is extremely important and necessary because it lays the foundation for higher order learning, but foundational knowledge is, nonetheless, only the start of learning.

The problem with focusing exclusively on building lower order thinking is that, in the modern era, the shelf-life of existing knowledge and skills has become shorter and the impact of increasingly complex problems facing societies requires new ways to solve these problems — ways that focus on the production of original knowledge and the skills needed to solve these problems.

Educational institutions should therefore be focused on cultivating higher order thinking. Existing knowledge and skills have very limited value unless they can be applied in novel ways to produce new knowledge that solves complex and large-scale problems to improve the quality of life for all people.

Developing new literacies of the future

In today’s fast-changing society, most people are likely to change jobs and careers several times throughout their lives. So, students need to be exposed to a rigorous set of learning experiences that allows them to develop the habits, values and higher order thinking skills to make them better able to succeed and adapt in the modern era.

While language and maths literacy are foundational, the modern era requires new forms of learning that cultivate the competencies required to function and succeed in a more complex and rapidly changing environment. Chief among these new literacies are problem-solving and metacognitive literacies, critical and creative thinking literacies and meaningful and humanistic literacies, which the rights-based educational model is intended to address.

For instance, two forms of inquiry-based learning are problem-based learning and research-based learning, which are now widely used at many colleges and universities.

These approaches to education are designed to develop higher order thinking skills (that is, applying, analysing, evaluating and creating original knowledge or products). Thus, it is in the production of original scholarly work that the true value of education is realised.

Education for the 21st century

While education alone is not a panacea for all the world’s problems, it does offer humanity the best chance for solving many of the problems humanity faces and for helping to lift people out of poverty and despair. For instance, embedding sustainable development into the curriculum and into the teaching-learning process will become one of the top aims for educational institutions.

The world is rapidly changing and educational institutions must change with it. Therefore, we must focus on transforming the entire learning ecosystem in such a way that promotes new literacies in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. — University World News

Patrick Blessinger is an adjunct associate professor of education at St John’s University, New York City, United States, and chief research scientist for the International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association or HETL.

Enakshi Sengupta is director of the Center for Advanced Research in Education at HETL.

Mandla Makhanya is principal, vice-chancellor and professor at the University of South Africa and president of HETL.

International Conference on Human Rights and Human Dignity (ICHRHD)

28 – 29 December

Book Reading for Kids

14 December

African Conference on the quality of early childhood education and the professionalization of educators

4-5 December

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