Skills and education powered by digital technologies form the core of future of work and learning

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Aakash Sethi Quest Alliance

Aakash Sethi, CEO, Quest Alliance

How are we gearing up to prepare our youth for future jobs that need 21st century skills? To keep pace with rapidly changing world of work, are our education and skilling programs making necessary changes in the curriculum and learning culture? Questions such as these will be discussed and deliberated during the 2-day Quest2Learn 2019 Annual Summit. We caught up with Aakash Sethi, CEO, Quest Alliance, to get the big picture of the event and understand its significance as a platform to influence thought and action. Let’s read on…

Tell us about the evolution of Quest2Learn Annual Summit and its impact on bringing skills and education closer.

This is the fourth edition of Quest2Learn Summit. Let me share the background to the concept we’ve been implementing through the summit. We realised that the education sector is broken and the skilling sector is looking for instant fixes to solve a bigger problem. So, we looked at the challenges in the education sector and tried to see how we can bridge the skill gap and come up with an integrated solution. This is a holistic approach where we look into changes that are needed in schools, need for a learner-centered pedagogy, create a better learning environment, explore reforms happening at teacher’s end that can produce better results etc.

Thus, the starting point was the education-skills divide and from there we moved on to including conversations with policy makers, researchers and practitioners who were doing innovative work in the domain of education and skills.

Subsequently, the focus was on analysing the trends in technology and what the future is and where things are moving. That’s how the theme ‘The Future of Work and Learning’ has evolved for this year’s summit. We will have discussions and deliberations on what kind of skills are needed so that the youth is ready for the future. This will enable us to move from how to fix the skills divide to how we can ensure that the youth are better prepared for the world of work. Since last year, we’ve been focussing on the role of technology and blended learning to make the youth future-ready.

skills_education_powered_by_digital_technologies_form_the_core_of_future_of_work_and_learningWhat skills are required in the youth to become entrepreneurs or employment-ready?

I would say digital literacy is most important; it’s not just about knowing the internet but to being able to navigate the digital world fluently and mastering it gradually. The second skill involves working in collaboration, learning how to work in teams, learning how to express your ideas and communicate effectively. From an entrepreneurship perspective, it’s more of a mindset, and risk-taking ability, learning to cope with failure, resilience that is needed to build a mindset of continuous growth, learning to learn etc. Self-learning or continuous learning – which is more to do with the fact that you have to upskill and reskill yourself – means that you have to learn to learn, not just in a classroom but in informal spaces or virtual ways as well.

What are the post summit plans to disseminate knowledge from the key proceedings?

We are looking at multiple ways of dissemination including the summit website and social media, which will carry recordings of the proceedings based on certain key issues that are being discussed. These discussions will be curated and shared. Topics would range from how we can use Artificial Intelligence for learning, earning and well-being, to how to we influence parents to create an engaging environment at home or give more decision-making powers to the learners. So we will have issue-specific groups who will identify problems and solutions and share with the larger community. The larger goal is to continue the conversation with the community. For this, we may have newsletters as well as master classes conducted on these topics, etc.

Please share your experience of working with ITIs and some of the challenges faced.

We will be releasing a report on challenges faced by ITIs today. The challenges have been on a variety of issues like the pedagogy, infrastructure, to how much focus of curriculum there has been on 21st century skills versus very old traditional trade specific skills. Today, the welder needs to learn coding. However, their training is largely restricted to learning welding on machines. Thus, the transition to the new paradigm has been slow or non-existent.

There are mult-ipronged issues like pedagogy, capacity building for teaching, the industry-ITI connect and leadership development in the broader framework of reforms taking place in the technical training ecosystem. This requires a larger system to come together to resolve issues through continuous dialogue with different stakeholders.

Quest2Learn_future_skillsThe curriculum needs to be reviewed, for example the time allotted for trade skills is 400 hours and it is 100 hours for 21st century skills. The ration has to change if we need to prepare the students for emerging world or work. If we are keen on including digital component in the curriculum, it has to start with changing the mindset. Devices like mobile phones are still not allowed in the classroom. This calls for a sustained induction wherein the authorities understand the importance of digital devices that can help in accessing digital platforms of learning, in addition to the prescribed textbooks.

What are some of the key projects and achievements with regard to ITIs and the road ahead.

For ITIs , we are right now working with Ministry of Skills and Entrepreneurship and we have launched an Employability Skills Blended Learning Curriculum. This can be accessed by any ITI student, anywhere, anytime. We are working with six state governments to ensure that there are trained master trainers to use or introduce this curriculum in ITI s. We’ve also undertaken training of principals and head master who can manage industry connect seamlessly. We have got some key funders like Accenture, Cisco for creating content, to invest in building the platforms, training, and placement etc.

There is also a focus on enabling secondary school to train girls to learn code and build more confidence in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). We have partnered with IBM to ensure better enrolment in STEM courses by girls and have begun implementing this initiative in 6 states. We are also ensuring that they have agencies to negotiate better with their parents. We are introducing the curriculum, training the teachers working with other NGOs and also assessing the impact. We have an out-of-school program for girls in Bihar and Jharkhand where we are providing employability skills. This is to prevent school dropouts in this region.

We have also directed our efforts towards coming up with effective practices towards building 21st century classrooms to reduce school dropouts in India under our Anandshala program. This has led us to getting a deep understanding of the landscape from experts and several non-profit heads, building a sector-level understanding of gaps, challenges and solution strategies.

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