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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