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Education and Work – Evaluating The Need For Change

Vikas Gupta, MD, Wiley India

This article is written by Vikas Gupta, MD, Wiley India

Before the onset of the era of Industry
4.0, where rapid change has become not just the norm, but a necessity,
Education and Learning held different meanings altogether. To be educated meant
to hold a degree, while to learn was to go beyond what an institute could
teach. Learning required effort, it required a passion for knowledge. As
expected, this dichotomy of principle between education and learning led an
entire generation to pick one or the other. Most people found comfort in the
promise of a degree, and learning became a luxury, desired only by a few.

This bifurcation had a direct and
immediate effect on one’s professional life. Industries were on a lookout for
well-educated individuals rather than well-skilled or reskill-able
professionals. Thus, the ideal professional held proficiency in a single skill
and only sought to become better at it. The need to expand one’s skills had yet
not settled in. Consequently, learning became a short-lived process and was
restricted to colleges, following a linear model. The worth of our ability was
measured on base parameters, numbers, and statistics. Whatever we taught and
learned in a college was enough to lead a meaningful successful life.

Thus, we became the prisoner of our
success.

We became complacent. The growth rate of
both individuals and organizations hit a bar and achieve its saturation point.
This complacency also became visible in the research and development sector.
Just like how a small change in angle could result in an entirely separate
trajectory of a projectile, the distinction between education and learning
resulted in a great gap between research and application.

Even though we were aware of our stagnant
state, the need to upgrade was never felt and its effects reflected in research
and industry. Primary research goals were restricted to a linear model of
growth. Core research dominated the landscape, with minimal emphasis on Applied
Research. The world of R&D chose to evolve at a snail-like speed. Developed
countries acted as the major contributors and as time passed by, we became
comfortable with the pace of evolution, unaware of what was to follow.

The cumulative effects of stagnant
learning and research, invariably, affected the scope of work. The requisites
for a successful career were few and the expectations, minimal. Industries
thrived with employees who held proficiency in a single field and could promise
a constant performance.

Those who went beyond the conventional
bounds of knowledge were regarded as the most important assets for any
enterprise. Moreover, these industries did not have access to a system which
let them scrutinize the workforce and realize one’s true potential. The shelf
life of an individual skill was long. Thus, an individual only needed to
re-skill once or twice in their entire career to pass through life.

Organizations expected a certain level of aptitude and skill from the professionals that were entering the industries, and thus educational institutes started suffering from the lack of motivation to inculcate constant learning as the fundamental skill in the skillset of the students.

Such a framework led the industries to
hire workforce for every basic job, which could be done better with automation,
as often discussed. This ensured that every career path based on the middleman
profile commanded equal importance across the landscape. The demand was always
lower than supply, and we didn’t want to change.

The effects of this stagnation could be
felt across the educational and professional strata, but a collective,
unanimous, and democratic realization was yet to come. As time passed by, the
effects became more and more apparent in the educational landscape. However,
the disconnect established its roots so deep that people still continue to pay
throughout their learning years and publishers are yet the drivers of
education. Degrees, without effective learning-value, still mattered at the
time.

In an ‘IBM Institute for Business Value’
2016 survey, it was discovered that better access to high-value skillsets not
only boosts an individual’s career but also contributed to the efficiency of
the organization and even of the Indian economy.

The effects and implications of such an
immobile state of growth continue to be grave. As we come to the cusp of
modern-present time, where organization around the world started moving towards
automation technology, the need for a structural overhaul of how we approach
education and learning became imminent. These educational models needed to
evolve with changing times and evolving needs.

As we started to settle in, the future struck us with yet another flurry of possibilities and uncertainties.

Yet, there is a possibility of change because as
things stand, the way we learn has already begun to fall short of evolutionary
needs. We need to do everything to avoid a future where we can’t uphold the world,
we’ve built around us. It is time for us to embrace a change where the future
will experience an exponential drift. The world, as we know it, will not learn
the same way anymore.

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