Why it’s time for new methods of teaching

Monday May 5 2014

Edward Njoroge, a senior teacher at Lavington Primary School teaches using e-learning. Improved student performance is proof that learning has become better, easier and more interesting. PHOTO|FILE

Edward Njoroge, a senior teacher at Lavington Primary School teaches using e-learning. Improved student performance is proof that learning has become better, easier and more interesting. PHOTO|FILE NATION

By LYDIA KAUME [email protected]

Educators and employers alike have for a long time expressed concern about the growing gap between the knowledge and skills learners acquire in school, and the competencies they need in 21st century workplaces.

This position, supported by reports from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) and the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), reinforces the need for a change in the current instructional approaches.

The reports demonstrate that in order to solve the challenges facing the world today, the future of education and training lies in finding and promoting innovative ways of imparting skills, knowledge, and attitudes that foster creative thinking and problem-solving instead of the current methodologies that focus on rote memorisation.

An established framework for 21st century learning becomes crucial for education systems in articulating the competencies that learners must master in order to succeed in work and life.

Youth unemployment and underemployment continue to feature in everyday conversations. Shrinking budgets for employee training and development are a key challenge facing organisations across all sectors, as performance improvement issues dominate boardroom agendas.

As organisations seek innovative ways to enhance performance by providing timely workplace training opportunities that have a positive return on investment, 21st century e-learning competencies continue to be at the core of these conversations.

According to WISE, the population of sub-Saharan Africa’s five to 14-year-olds will grow by more than 34 per cent over the next 20 years. This translates to 77 million new students.

MGI indicates that if current trends continue, Africa will need to create 122 million new stable, wage-paying jobs in the next 10 years to absorb the new entrants into the employment market.

Therefore, by all indications, local education systems need to be transformed to produce innovative problem-solvers as we prepare them for jobs that may not even be in the market yet.

Educators worldwide agree to some, if not all, the elements of the seven Cs for learners to succeed in life and the working environment of the future. These are creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking, content, community, and connectivity.

The first five, also commonly referred to as “Competencies for 21st Century Learning”, are increasingly being recognised as skills that separate students who are prepared for an increasingly complex life and work environments and those who are not.

Next is content, under the following broad themes: Global awareness, civic literacy, health literacy, financial literacy, economic literacy, and entrepreneurial literacy.

To better prepare learners for the future workplace, employers and educators must increasingly collaborate on initiatives to address the reigning challenges.

To facilitate community-building and content renewal among the stake holders, connectivity via ICTs — computers, mobile phones, and so on — is an essential tool for such communications and learning communities.

The 21st century learners are likely spend their adult lives in technology-driven, diverse, and dynamic work environments and e-learning will play a key role in fostering continued individual development.

The 2014 eLearning Innovations Conference and Expo, to be held from 28 to 31 July in Nairobi, has been organised as a platform for further discussion on how to best address these concerns.

The 2014 conference theme will be: The 21st Century eLearning: Transforming Education, Employment, and Economies.

It aims to bring together training practitioners, innovators, business leaders, ICT professionals, HR practitioners, educators, and scholars from all sectors to discuss best practices, policies, and the way forward.

The events will include pre-conference training, a three-day conference, and an exhibition.

The conference has been organised through a public-private partnership involving diverse stake holders, including the Public Service Commission, Talents Coaching and Consulting, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of ICT, the Vision 2030 Secretariat, and the Kenya School of Government.

The inaugural event, held in 2013 under the theme, Developing Human Capital Through eLearning and Mobile Technologies, had delegates from 11 different representing five continents.

Learning about the changes in the workplace and the implications for our educational systems is critical if we are to remain competitive in a knowledge-based society.

With ICTs as a catalyst for learning and performance improvement, Africa is poised to maximise the value of her key asset, which is the people.

Dr Lydia Kaume is the co-chair of the 2014 eLearning Innovations Conference and Expo to be held in July