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Technology education, learning, and sustainable development: exploring the links

Tue, April 16, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Bay (Level 1), Bayview B

Group Submission Type: Refereed Round-Table Session


Quality and relevant technology education has never been more urgent. The 4th Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) dramatically amplifies the already fast pace of change in the 21st century. “Previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and genetics and biotechnology are all building on and amplifying one another”, to fuel sweeping transformation like none before (WEF 2016 Report on the Future of Jobs).

There is heightening integration of the physical with the virtual, interfacing of human and machine intelligence, interfacing of humans with machines in production in smart factories with intelligent near-autonomous machines and things that interconnect through the Internet, communicate, interact, and can analyze and act on their environments. Within Industry 4.0, the information revolution is taking a new dimension, thanks to unlimited storage, high velocity of data processing, high-speed transmission through and across high performing computers and intelligent objects. These advancements are fast eroding current jobs while introducing new and unknown ones with different competence requirements. Technological advancements usher not only new modes of production across all fields of work, they are also transforming all spheres of live. Moreover, technology has becomes a way of production and a way of life.

The debate is still raging on whether these changes will result in vast disconnects between current and incoming (from education systems) talent pool on the one hand and new job and work opportunities on the other. Whether these changes will lead to devastating losses of jobs and gainful employment and exacerbate current inequalities or they will just dramatically change the nature of jobs and work. What is certain is that fast changing demand of new competences for jobs, work, and life will become the norm. The technology driven future is unknown, all we know is that we must stand ready for that unknown future.

The enormous scale of uncertainty impels education and learning systems to equip learners with competences that enable them to adapt quickly to changing technological demands and effectively take up opportunities offered by technological advancements if they are to thrive and to be fulfilled in and through Industry 4.0. A learner who starts elementary education today is going to enter the job and work market in environments much different from what is predictable in the near future. For those who are already in the labor market, the challenge is less daunting as their short and medium term competence needs are predictable, but they too need to sustain the relevance of their competences.

A clear identification of competences required to enable one to become a top-end technologist (not just a top-end user and beneficiary of technologies), and how to effectively facilitate learners to acquire those competences is critical. This is more so for developing countries that already suffer a huge talent shortage. It is equally urgent in developed countries that must sustain the pull-up effect on the least developed ones.

More to the point, there is a critical need to re-think technology education and learning for sustainable development.

The panel brings together leading representatives of academia and robotics and technology companies, fully engaged with these issues. The panel is organized by UNESCO International Bureau of Education, a center of excellence in curriculum and learning.

Participants include:

Mmantsetsa Marope, Director, UNESCO International Bureau of Education
Keith Levin, Professor, University of Sussex
Ben Goertzel, Chief Scientist, Hanson Robotics and SingularityNET
Loubna Bouarfa, Machine Learning Scientist, OKRA Technologies
Holy Ranaivozanany, Head of Corporate Global Corporate Citizenship, Huawei

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