Education Key to Unlocking the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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This article was originally published in the Gold Coast Bulletin on May 13th 2018, and was written as part of my contribution to the City of Gold Coast’s “Gold Coast Way Ahead” initiative.

THE fourth industrial revolution is in full swing and our youth are increasingly ill-prepared to take advantage of it. Innovative organisations operate in a way that was inconceivable at scale 20 years ago: results-oriented workplaces are outperforming control oriented management systems, demanding the additional skills of transdisciplinarity, creativity and emotional intelligence.

Unfortunately, our education system is struggling to keep pace with the delivery of future work skills, constrained by the very systems which have caused the downfall of corporate giants like Kodak and Nokia. As with all revolutions, embedded institutions find it the most difficult to adapt.

One way to enable the change is via an edict from the top, and David Gonski’s recent reporton Australia’s schooling system may provide such an impetus. The report calls for an adaptive and innovative education system generating creative, connected and engaged learners. It calls for an increased focus on the general capabilities of problem solving, social interaction and critical thinking.

The report is music to the ears for those calling for experiential entrepreneurship education to become an embedded component of our national curriculum. The entrepreneurial discipline is well known to be expert at making decisions under uncertainty, and the general capabilities espoused in Gonski 2.0 align strongly with the entrepreneurial method.

Many schools are working around the current limitations, delivering co-curricular programs and activities to develop entrepreneurial capability in their students. They are often delivered by passionate educators going above and beyond an already very full workload to deliver the programs, and the resultant burnout leaves promising activities without the resources to be sustainable.

Alternatively, external providers are brought in to deliver the education, resulting in a requirement for budget allocation and a lack of knowledge transfer into the school itself. Neither are long-term solutions for a schooling system attempting to deliver future work skills.

Buried within the recommendations of the Gonski report is a call to empower school leadership to invest in new educational styles: to give principals and teachers access to professional development and the autonomy to determine their respective school’s path forward.

This will be particularly important as the way in which entrepreneurial capability is learned differs from mainstream pedagogy, with a strong reliance on an experiential and iterative approach. We will need to invest in our teachers to effectively deliver the education, bringing them into the fourth industrial revolution as a critical contributor to Australia’s entrepreneurial workforce.

We can choose to view our future as one of abundance, with an optimistic attitude towards the ways in which we alter our education system. Or we can be close-minded and ignorant of the inevitable changes sweeping through global markets and altering the basis of commerce.

We owe it to our children to be on the front foot, preparing them with the skills and capabilities needed to thrive in an uncertain world. The choice is ours.

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