Global trends: Why integrated approach to education is vital

Last week, the sixth academia-public-private partnership forum 2018 was held at the Catholic University of East Africa in Nairobi under the theme, ‘The Est African Common Higher Education Area’

During the forum, the regional education experts called for increased private sector investment in higher education, as well as participation at all stages of molding students into graduates that the industry and private sector would want.

Echoing a similar concern on molding students into graduates the labour market wants, was a recent World Economic Forum report on the future of jobs in Africa, particularly in the context of the fourth industrial revolution.

During the forum, the regional education experts called for increased private sector investment in higher education, as well as participation at all stages of molding students into graduates that the industry and private sector would want.

Echoing a similar concern on molding students into graduates the labour market wants, was a recent World Economic Forum report on the future of jobs in Africa, particularly in the context of the fourth industrial revolution.

One of the recommendations was promotion of computer literacy and learning of entrepreneurial skills to create jobs, which are all new trends occurring in the education system.

However, the question remains; is our education well suited to prepare young people for the market, beginning with transfer of usable skills? Education Times’ Lydia Atieno talked to different education stakeholders about the issue, and the approach that can be taken to ensure the education system is in tandem with the fast-changing trends on the education arena and job market.

Why we should move with the trends

According to Christian Ikuzwe, the proprietor of Academic Bridge, an information management software for schools, trends like artificial intelligence, nano technology and many others are revolutionising the way many things are done, implying that millions of jobs are also going to be obsolete.

“Our education system needs to be adaptive as well as tailored to prepare young people with skills that will make them thrive in the technology-driven world,” he says.

Ikuzwe notes that the innovations and other new things that are going to happening in the country are dependent on how the young people/students are skilled in areas that promote their ingenuity.

He recommends having tech incubators in schools to mentor the next generation of coders, programmers and software developers.

“We cannot continue seeing our students go to other countries looking for better education opportunities or with a mindset that they can thrive in other countries other than their own. Where we need to begin from is a better education system built on the trust of the Rwandan citizens, an education that meets their expectations,” he says.

Valens Mushinzimana, a teacher at Lycée De Kigali, says fast-adopting new trends in teaching is the way to go.

He notes that the 21st century now is characterised by disruptive technologies, which has revolutionilised everything, even redefining how we as humans relate to technology.

“The education system is changing, and countries that are not adapting to new systems of education, especially in relation to technology, are going to be affected,” he observes.

Louis Antoine Muhire, an entrepreneur, says if we are going to compete with developed countries, there is a lot that needs to be done in the local education system. Today, for instance, he says, it’s mostly private schools that are providing computer literacy at an early stage, yet 80 per cent of African students are in public institutions with no such capacity.

“The challenge is how we can have the same capacity of training across the board, so we can have a large pool of our population tapping into this fourth industrial revolution,” he says.

The solution, Muhire says, lies in the Government heavily investing in education.

“This revolution is a knowledge-based competition. Since you can’t leapfrog training and capacity building, as we heavily invest in infrastructures, our leaders will have to find a way to seriously support education in the next five to 10 years,” he says.

According to Dr Opiyo Andala, the dean, School of Education at Mount Kenya University, through regulatory bodies like Higher Education Commission (HEC), Rwanda has made a lot of efforts in  streamlining its tertiary institutions. For instance, the use of ICT in Rwandan schools has changed the perception of students and teachers regarding its importance on the job market.

“Through ICT, general studies and communication skills have been integrated in the education systems at every level for job and industrial support, such that school leavers can create their own jobs,” he says.

Andala notes that a market survey within the labour market has shown that the employers prefer employing computer literate youth. The salaries being paid for specific positions are now pegged on ICT knowledge and level of competence in computer tools.

Andala points out that ICT enhances the quality of education by increasing learner motivation and engagement by facilitating the acquisition of basic skills and enhancing teacher training.

Experts have called for increased private sector investment in higher education

Why both teachers and students should be involved

Jean de Dieu Musengimana, an ICT teacher based in Bugesera District, believes that in order to keep up with the pace, students should enroll for computer courses during their gap years or their time at university, especially in areas of their passion.

 “A student interested in coding should begin early so that they can become experts. They should aim at not just knowing the basics, but being aware of the trends evolving in that field in general,” he says.

Musengimana says educators should equally be aware of the current global trends and adopt an integrated approach to education.

He notes that schools can still follow the nationally approved curricula, but then impart additional skills to prepare their students for the demanding and ever-changing world. One of those ways, he says, is focusing on computer literacy.

Musengimana, for instance, says schools should have coding clubs to mentor the next generation of software developers and innovative minds.

“These initiatives should target children at an early age. Our nation needs to strategically invest in the young generation if we to fit in the next generation,” he says.

Musengimana adds that training a critical mass of educators is as well needed if this target is to be achieved. “This also means that people who aren’t computer illiterate are likely to lose their jobs in the future.

What the ministry says

According to Dr Christine Niyizamwiyitira, the head of ICT at Rwanda Education Board, the Ministry of Education implements its programmes through six departments, among them, ICT in Education and Open Distance and e-Learning (ICT&ODCL), to match the the new trends in education.

She says a number of ICT programmes have been initiated and are significantly impacting teaching and learning processes. For instance, the smart classrooms initiative aims at developing 21st century skills and increasing access to knowledge among students at all levels, she said.

“So far, we have been and are still training teachers on how to use ‘smart classes’ and we have plans to give them computers in the near future in a bid to enhance computer-based learning,” says Niyizamwiyitira.

She says, so far, 35 per cent of schools across the country have been installed with ‘smart classrooms’.

However, Niyizamwiyitira notes that they are still facing the challenge of lack of sufficient digital content.

“However, this is being addressed and it’s expected to be fixed within few months,” she says.

Niyizamwiyitira says adoption to technology is still a challenge, but the government is steadily working on it to ensure our education system adapts to latest education global trends.

Their views...

Jeanette Uwizeye, university student

We are still faced with a challenge of lack of computers. As someone studying music, I find it hard to cope with others around the globe that have access to the very many available computer tools. The Government should avail such gadgets to students who aren’t doing well financially.

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Hesbon Rwasa, lecturer

Adopting new trends in the education system means we are slowly moving towards creating a new, developed country. What is required is to remain in touch with what is trending globally and find ways of learning and adapting to it so that we are not left behind.

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Nadin Tuyizera, student

The world is going digital, and in order to be at the level of a developed country, there is need to invest in education heavily. Government should prioritise digital learning so that students get the skills needed to fit the changing times.

 

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