Only a new educational orientation guarantees a place in the future workplace

Monday January 21 2019

By BITANGE NDEMO
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The famous Jewish victim of the Holocaust and author of The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank, wrote the following words: ''I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.''

Although there are very few incidences that can be likened to the Holocaust, there is misery in poverty, crime and hopelessness that is a likely scenario in the days to come if we do not act now to prepare for a future workspace through creative education.

As I reflect on what may happen, I am also encouraged that in the midst of misery, there could be beauty that still remains.

What is certain is that technology is fast changing the idea of work and at the same time making most of what we consider to be work irrelevant. Jobs that require repetitive tasks are dying. More people will be out of employment and more people will fall into poverty and crime.

As bad as it sounds, we cannot protect such jobs any more. The planet we live in isn’t just for us. We must keep pace with the rest of the world or perish. As long as we live on planet earth, we must adopt to the changes or leapfrog and lead the world into the future jobs.

What are these future jobs? The answer to this question lies in what Artificial Intelligence (AI) cannot do.

There are many jobs that can never be taken over by machines in the foreseeable future. Most jobs, even the ones that will be automated, will require additional human qualities.
These qualities include human creativity, empathy, morality, communication, planning and making strategic decisions or even creating music. They can be classified into two broad areas - creativity and morality, and each can produce many jobs.

CREATIVITY

Perfecting these qualities, however, require some specialised training.

For example, if you want to train future entrepreneurs, they must take such courses as creativity and innovation. Research has shown that training interventions in creativity and innovation is positively related to greater performance of enterprises.

Creativity and innovation are also deemed to be more important than financial resources, experience, time, and infrastructure.

The problem is that such courses are not too common in developing countries. While some countries have incorporated creative thinking in their educational systems from early childhood education to university, our system is largely characterised by rote learning and cramming to pass examinations.

That perhaps explains why many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) do not seek to exploit an opportunity and are often replications that are never sustainable beyond four years from their start.

As we haphazardly implement the new system of education that has been described as competency-based education, we emphasise the knowledge that will make graduates employable or independent enough to take risk and start businesses that have a greater value proposition to sustain them long enough to employ other young people.

From the time missionaries arrived in Africa, creativity in Africa was discouraged through the educational systems that did not allow any form of questioning. That system has remained in force until today.

''Authoritarian teaching did not encourage creativity, questioning or deviation from the norm, and has had a devastating impact on intellectual, artistic and practical creativity across the continent,'' says Minette Mans in her 2013 article, ''Creative thinking in Africa: tensions through change.''

Currently, sites of contestation lie in the demands of 'new' education. From the Kenyan experience, we still have to define what this new education should be.

More than fifty years since most African countries gained independence, we are still in the colonial yolk as new technologies devastate the employment space. For maximum creative development, we need nothing short of a revolution but first we must separate church and state on matters education.

In Kenya and Ghana the church is pushing to regain control of what used to be missionary schools. This will be bad for the future since the religious dogma could perhaps be worse than the colonist control of education.

MORALITY

Morality, the other key aspect to change, is entangled between religion and traditional norms. Until we understand that morality is not the same thing as faith, we shall continue to violate the principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong, or good and bad behaviour.

The confusion explains why many religious people fail to understand their moral obligations (conscientious duty or ethical motives) with respect to governance.

The political class must make a conscious decision to emancipate educational system from what it is today to something that builds an independent-minded human being with the capacity to create and conscientiously support others.

We must carefully study the remaining beauty and perfect it to produce a lot more jobs, not just within the country, but across the world, and also seek opportunities to create new enterprises that are sustainable to create more jobs and ethical wealth.

Our destiny is in our hands. We can avoid misery in the future if we do the right thing now.

That thing begins with changing the limiting education system we have at the moment to a more creative system that can enable morality to thrive.

The writer is an associate professor at University of Nairobi’s School of Business. @bantigito