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Education IX

The Four Hottest Trends In Education Today. Where Does Africa Fit In?

by Mwabi Motaung - Heavy Chef

 

There was a meme floating around the social media streets a couple of years ago that comes to mind when I think of education in Africa.

It was an image of the anatomy of a grasshopper with the caption ‘What we are learning while they learn how to code’. Or something to that effect, I don’t remember exactly and the meme has expired (as it so happens, apparently). Basically, I think African education today is out of sync with the African reality. We’re a continent with a number of problems that need solving, and our curriculum should reflect that.

I have found myself mentally reverting to this meme lately, so this week, I set myself the task of changing this very pessimist outlook into something akin to hopeful. How? By doing some research. Seeing what the other kids are up to internationally, good and bad. At the very least, it will point to cases that help me to appreciate what we have.

 

African education today is out of sync with the African reality.

 

For instance, Singaporean parents are literally training kids to be smarter. High-stakes testing, rigorous learning schedules, and super-qualified teachers are the norm. You have to be in the top third of your class in high school to qualify to even get into a teaching course here, and teachers are really well paid. The best part? They get the results they need. Incredible, right? Except for the fact that the same system has children as young as 12 undergo some serious tests with serious stakes, to negative effects on their health.

The good and the bad, see. In the end, I noticed four trends in education around the world today that I would like to share with you.

 

Artificial Intelligence

AI and big data are revolutionising the way we do education. When done right, they make for customised learning experiences that allow students to enjoy learning programmes that are personalised to suit the individual’s unique requirements for learning. It’s also a lot more fun to learn using tech and you get more engaged students. However, it’s important that the people building the algorithms keep social, economic and demographic implications in mind, otherwise, it's just another set of tools we can’t apply to real life.

 

Neuroscience

Neuroscience is finally getting the place of prominence it deserves in education studies. We are finally catching up to the fact that the way our brain functions can be a model for the way we learn. That we can figure out how to boost not just literacy levels but our overall learning and cognitive development as well. Rapelang Rabana touched on this at The Educators Inspire Session in September, citing a local example in her talk. I am looking forward to seeing the research on this unfold.

 

Self-led professional development

69% of the entrepreneurs we interviewed for The Annual Heavy Chef Entrepreneur Education Survey cited 'learning by myself' as contributing the most to their entrepreneur development. People all over the world are using the internet to teach themselves skills that would otherwise cost a lot of money. The downside? The internet does cost money in South Africa. Resources are not readily available to everyone and infrastructure is inadequate in most public schools across the country.

 

Tailored learning experiences

Personalised learning experiences allow a unique glimpse into the learning habits of individual students, providing an opportunity for the teacher to design an education strategy that’s customised to suit the student's specific learning and assessment style. AI has a big part to play in creating these personalised learning experiences for students. However, this is a trend that is exclusionary when applied in the South African context as personalised learning is costly to implement and inaccessible to the majority of our population.

I admit I am a little more optimistic now. Not because I think our education system is on par. I think we have a lot of roadblocks in our way and it will be a while yet before we can jump that hurdle clearly. Basic infrastructure and resources are a challenge in most public schools across the country, and that isn’t magically changing soon.

I am optimistic because I know now that at least the conversations are being had, both locally and internationally. This means that it will get better. It will take some time but it will certainly get better.

Interesting fact: Some schools in Australia are doing away with digital education altogether.

 

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