The 4th Industrial Revolution asks schools to get less industrial

Me: “What do you remember from last week’s lessons?”

15 year-old student: “eer … not sure … that was a LONG time ago!”

I interviewed students this week who are on what my school calls our “Priority list.” The reasons you might be ‘listed’ vary from academic success to language barriers, to national targets around supporting particular demographics, including those from poor families. What’s wonderful about having these conversations in my school is that we are a flexible institution working within a flexible education system, both of which are pushing hard to adapt mindsets and approaches to match the current 4th industrial revolution. (4thIR)

The 4thIR verses 2ndIR Schools

4th Industrial RevolutionWhether you are talking autonomous vehicles or BioTechnology, the central crux of the 4th Industrial Revolution is vigorous and continuous change.  When they say ‘continuous’ they really mean shifts in world priorities/pressures every 12 months or less in some cases. In contrast, some of the most academic and knowledgable teachers I work with are the people most challenged by changes in systems, routines, accountability, and priorities. Obtaining knowledge doesn’t ready you to use it (adapt) or necessarily offer you the will to do so. This is what is leading multiple reports and papers to conclude that a rebalancing of school priorities is drastically needed to readdress what society defines as success and readiness.

Will the 4thIR help schools help the poor?

Statistics at all levels have always proved the reality that poor children are less successful at school but if the 4th Industrial Revolution redefines what society asks from people, then maybe schools can now offer success to a wider group of people.  I am fortunately to live in New Zealand where publics schools like Kia Aroha College are free to serve the poorest children in the country in a respectful and personalised manner, almost free from any demand to conform to the usual standardised set of academic values. Values that are still dominant in most schools, regardless of what’s happening in the world, socially or economically.

The biggest challenge for poor children in the OECD countries, has always been a matter of finding the will amongst so many extra life challenges to conform to a system seemingly only designed for the well-supported. Every OECD country now has numerous examples and demands to redefine what success is and much of this involves dismantling the conformity and standardisation installed by the 19th Century.  As most countries take small steps to address their outdated measuring of success through standardised ranking, we step forward in accepting individuals for who they are and building on personal interests and quality strengths.

Source: THE COMING SKILLS REVOLUTION : Humans Wanted : How Canadian youth can thrive in the age of disruption

Schools ignore the 4thIR’s main challenge

To be adaptive to change requires a confident awareness in one’s personal strengths and weaknesses and experience in applying them. Outside school, social media and new opportunities to learn mean that personalising learning and building one’s own networks is the norm. A new daily norm that most schools continue to ignore. If schools can take radical steps to base daily routines around learning who one is and not around confirming what one isn’t, then everyone, especially the vulnerable will benefit. A boost in self-awareness will be appreciated by employers who use it to frame all their opening interview questions. The 4th Industrial Revolution will not threaten any jobs centred around what it is to be human. Schools will prepare for the new industrial revolution by realising its about being less industrial and that it’s humans that are wanted.

Author: Richard Wells
Deputy Principal in a New Zealand High School
Teaches grade 6 to 12
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters)
and an International keynote speaker.
Twitter :  @EduWells

This post is written as part of  The Global Search for Education: Our Top Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers.