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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The School of Tomorrow: Part 2 - "Feeding" the Job Market

Before I delve into areas of greater interest to me, I shall give in totally to those who view one of the main roles of the school as that of providing workplace fodder. Crude? My apologies. Feel free to replace it with any euphemism of your choice.

In 1987 a survey in the US showed that a full 63% of Job Titles in use then had not even existed just 30 years earlier. Seemed unbelievable to those of us sitting through the presentation, on October 4 that year. The date was the 30th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik. Suddenly, we all realized that several new jobs had sprung up because of the Space Race, alone, which had really begun in earnest after the Sputnik launch ruffled America's competitive feathers.

New jobs were, over the next 30 years, not confined to the Space industry and its fallout (which varied from the manufacture and sale of Superglue to research in extra-light construction material). Many other undreamt of wonders, such as the one Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were to pull out of their garage, suddenly altered entire lifestyles in homes and workplaces. This new personal computing industry created an immense need in the suddenly mushrooming software programming sector. Soon, Desktop Publishing and Desktop Animation triggered off their own offshoot industries filled with new job descriptions. And that was just one sector.

Tim Berners-Lee, the man responsible for the miracle that is the WorldWideWeb, was hardly 3 at that time. The bio-tech boom, poised to be “the next new, new thing”, to borrow a phrase, was not even the subject of discussion for the vast majority. Had people on October 3, 1957, been asked to predict the next 30 years, how close would they have got to the scenario that unveiled? As we look at the next 30 years, in this world of accelerating progress, how many of us can predict what the Job Market will be? And, of those, how many can work out the curricular needs to cover the shape of things to come? Of this handful, how many will have the ability to support and train teachers who will, in turn, be required to mentor the students, some of whom will even be born a quarter of a century from now?

More pertinent to our debate, will the majority of the skills needed in 2035 be best taught in a school environment? Even the most diehard defender of the school system would find this hard to believe in, let alone predict the changes required for the school to meet these demands.

When reading or hearing about the future of Education in Pakistan, I have generally found that the articles or talks relate only to those matters that are deemed to be connected directly to the education area, such as Assessment, Curriculum, Syllabi, Literacy, Teacher Development, and the physical school itself. Rarely, if ever, have I found references to 'external factors' that could and, doubtless, will have great impact over our learning and education environments over time. A few that come to my mind will be considered in my next post.

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