If ever there was the need for a transition for innovative education to happen, this brave new world demands it. However, the reactionaries in the education sector and bureaucrats in the government sector in poor countries tend to be those who see themselves as possessing the most dazzling of terminal degrees and qualifications.
In refusing to update themselves for the digital age, educators, for instance, unconsciously invite their own self-termination. To steer the right corner, such detractors will have to take colossal mental leaps to escape the perennial cycle of poverty caused by the apathetic ways in which they perceive education and the indifference by which they deliver it. At the end of it all, the digitally inclined youth are the losers, and that must not continue!
I remember a remark by Andrew S. Grove, the former chairman of the board of Intel Corporation and a 1997 Time magazine man of the year. In his book, Only the Paranoid Survive: How to exploit the crisis points that challenge every company, he recalled how he often called on people who were experts in their field to teach him in order to improve himself. He said, “This entailed some personal risk. It required swallowing my pride and admitting how little I knew …”
He wrote, “Basically, I went back to school. (I was aided by the fact that Intel is a schoolish company, where it is perfectly respectable for a senior person with twenty years of experience to take some time, buckle down and learn a whole new set of skills.) Admitting that you need to learn something new is always difficult. It is even difficult if you are a senior manager who is accustomed to the automatic deference which people accord you owing to your position. But if you do not fight it, that very deference may become a wall that isolates you from learning new things. It all takes self-discipline.”
The mind is a terrible thing to waste, and if great digital minds like Grove, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs defined themselves as lifelong learners, what excuse do the rest of us have?
In a recent keynote address at the “Ghana CEO Summit 2017, Accra, Moses Kwesi Baiden Jnr, CEO of the Margins Group, said, “This 4th industrial revolution is the mother of all revolutions and will alter the world fundamentally and dramatically and as a country and as businesses we need to carve out a sound vision and be deliberately involved in a major way for the sake of the children and the generations yet unborn.”
He said, “Imagine a $100 billion company domiciled in Ghana that creates jobs for thousands of employees; a law abiding company domiciled in Ghana, able to lock horns with global behemoths. This is not a fantasy; this is the new reality where innovation is not restrained by unaffordable capital cost. The 4th revolution is here; it is the age of digitisation. A new reality in which a kid from Nima can horn his knowledge and skills to achieve global pre-eminence. This 4th time, we have run out of reasons to fail.”
Digital and technological innovations are the order of the day; but a proportion of our chronic academics are passive resistors blocking the way for the youth to progress. In reality they stumble when confronted with new challenging technology or pretend that the radically new ways of doing things do not exist. A passive mindset tends to do the same old things over and again, by heart, while counting such wasted periods of passivity as experience. Without a critical reflection, that sort of experience is as dead as pork.
The era of technological innovations and forward thinking require a mindset diametrically opposed to the bureaucratic staleness which, without any checks or balances, can cause disaster. Apathy is not only a drag, it can be outright destructive.
In the column “Innovative solutions through digital technology: Examples from the Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence and Harvard University (June 18, 2012) I asked, “Must we watch on, bow to failure – one opportune era after another – and accept the nation’s education relegated to the bottom heap? It’s as if the youth dropping out in such large numbers doesn’t matter, and that Ghana – in particular, and Africa – in general must accept the status quo. Quality education for the youth to advance in useful ways is the new civil rights. Opportunities for solutions initiated by young people are today’s challenges.”
In Ghana, when we quote Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” the only sensible action ascribed to the words by many are the whippings and devious punishments claimed to develop a good character. What a world to grow in! Little did it occur to the culprits that the youth need skills to work productively and that is the way they should go to steer their future with determination and confidence. It’s amazing how the very word “skills” or “work” has become an anathema in the culture of the nation’s curricula developers.