Will education be the new currency of choice? | Sunday Observer

Will education be the new currency of choice?

13 September, 2020

Navigating through all the new concepts and trends, such as, student-centered teaching, use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), smart classrooms, digital libraries, Internet of Things (IoT), Learning Management Systems (LMS), online teaching/learning and assessments, bite-sized learning, Integrated/Blended Learning, Blockchain technology, ....all the way to virtual schools and universities, in the field of education, has itself become an intimidating challenge for all the stakeholders involved in the process.

Most importantly the students have to decide whether they should select one method over another depending on their area of interest. In the case of primary and secondary school students, perhaps their parents and teachers have to help them to make those decisions. But, more often than not, parents and teachers, who are a generation ahead of those students, are not very familiar with the latest trends and technologies and therefore it is important for them to get themselves educated and trained first. Even though some of these concepts have been in use from the mid-1990s in some of the countries, they were not very popular among the parents of the students due to lack of knowledge about the methods and lack of scientific studies evaluating the effects of each of those methods.

Creative thinking

People are constantly reminded of the advantages of sharpening their creative thinking abilities and emotional intelligence and to be life-long learners. But there is no proper guidance in navigating one’s life through all the different fields of study, methods of study and career paths other than just following the herd or settling with what is available locally. Children are told that they must think ‘out of the box’ but each letter and number in the answers in the marking scheme of their examinations is put, metaphorically speaking, in steel boxes that will survive even a nuclear attack.

If anyone dares to write an answer different from those in the marking scheme he will learn the importance of staying in the ‘box.’ The formal education process itself is well known for sending mixed messages like that, the reasons for which are justified as the necessity to teach children about divergent thinking while keeping the uniformity of the evaluation process. What most of the stakeholders forget or fail to mention is that there is no uniformity in the learning processes and the schools those children attend. Some who manage to score well in their examinations mostly by parroting get stuck at the end of their formal education goals having no opportunity to use it at least to make a living.

What if there was a way to quantify the value of each educational achievement, diploma, degree, the training program and the career choice and connect that to the type of skills you would develop and what opportunities will open for you through them? At present there are entrepreneurs who are trying to use blockchain technology to do build systems to securely share data about our education, skills, ambitions, and employment history. Within the context of a ‘Knowledge Economy’ where people are becoming life-long learners a system like that could track one’s learning behaviour and thinking patterns from kindergarten to retirement and beyond.

Service providers in education can use such a system to gain unprecedented access to the network of the education pipelines to facilitate learners with a personalised road map matching their dreams with the most suitable path through education to land exactly where they planned to land in the path of their chosen career. Employers will be able to use the system to pick and choose exactly the type of employees they want to hire for specific tasks. This type of system could eventually support a global economy where skills are the new currency.

It can even come to a level where the students are even paid to learn in exchange for their data. Education can become the new Gold Standard. In the world of economics, one should be able to build a market on top of anything that is quantifiable.

Blockchain technology

Blockchain technology has evolved to a level where each and every business dealing with a supply chain providing their products and services to consumers will not be successful without it. Schools, universities and other educational service providers will be at one end and the employers, both in the public and private sectors, will be at the other end. Of course the security of the information is going to be the main issue where most of the students and parents will be reluctant to share all these information about them with the whole world. On the other hand, one will get a chance of marketing one’s skills in the global market in which one’s physical location has no impact on joining an organisation and doing the work.

Not only mapping the educational path with the career and the employers with the employees but also mapping the type of career path one should choose depending on one’s talents, ambitions, philosophy of life and even the personalised definition of happiness is not far away with AI on a broader database. The best part of the whole process is that any change made to the set of variables will make changes in the whole supply chain with the agreement of all the stakeholders so that the decision to make that change will have no negative effect on the outcome. The machine will tell you what your goals should be and even give you several choice maps with expected savings at the beginning of your retirement. What more can one ask for?

The writer has served in the higher education sector as an academic over twenty years in the USA and thirteen years in Sri Lanka and can be contacted at [email protected]