Fine Tuning Your Skills for Next Industrial RevolutionIs our education system preparing students for the upcoming technological revolution?
Lee Kyung-chul  |
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승인 2016.12.08  13:14:07
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 LAST MONTH, there was the international conference, “Computing in the 21stCentury: Human and Machine Working as a Team” held at Yonsei University. The conference dealt with advanced technologies that will increasingly have a major influence on people’s daily lives in the future. One of the audiences asked what skills the future society would require and how people could prepare. At the core of historical changes were always technological innovations. Advanced technology causes huge changes in social and economic structures around the world. Many experts predict the Fourth Industrial Revolution will arrive in the foreseeable future and will incite societal structural changes as well. What will be these changes and what abilities will be highlighted in the future?

Features of the approaching revolution

As Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum (WEF), has previously described early this year, the world is in the early stages of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.” According to him, driven by the convergence of the physical world, the digital world and human beings themselves, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is a fundamental shift in how people produce, consume and relate to one another. The evidence of dramatic change is all around and it is happening at an exponential speed. Now people naturally dream of automatic vehicles, secretaries with Artificial Intelligence (AI), and assistance robots.
 This Fourth Industrial Revolution has two main features: “hyper-connectivity” and “hyper-intelligence.” “Hyper-connectivity” indicates the highly increased level of digital interconnection among people and things. Along with hyper-connectivity, people and systems are constantly connected through devices such as smartphones, tablets and sometimes through software that enable and promote constant communication. According to WEF, many experts anticipate that there will be 50 billion networked devices and 50 billion smart devices which will reinforce mutual networking by 2020. Additionally, the number of Internet-connected objects is anticipated to increase from 18.2 billion in 2015 to 50.1 billion in 2020. This level of connectivity will have profound cross-social consequences, and increasingly have a significant impact on people’s everyday lives. As individuals can make a decisive influence to the world with high level of connectivity, power is moving from large organization to smaller group and individuals.
Machines are becoming smarter, and software intelligence is being embedded into every aspect of business, helping drive new levels of operational efficiency and innovation. This is named as “hyper-intelligence.” In 2011, IBM Watson, the AI program of IBM, won against two of Jeopardy’s greatest quiz champions. What was surprising is that AI computers have evolved from mere computing tools to high intelligent beings that have reached the level of understanding human language and generating complex answers. This result shocked many people and showed the new phase of a hyper-intelligent society.
As machine-to-machine communication becomes more common, the interaction of intelligent computers, individuals, and data will have a more decisive influence on every operation of productivity and performances. Previously, computing tools were thought to only perform simple and repetitive tasks. But with the advent of hyper-intelligence, AI will show better performance at human cognitive abilities such as logical thinking, computational power, and strategic judgment.

Changes in required ability

Five years from now, over one-third of the skills that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed, according to The Future of Jobs (2016) by the WEF. By 2020, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will have brought people advanced robotics and autonomous transport, and AI with machine learning technique. These developments will transform the way people live and the way people work. Some jobs will disappear, others will grow and jobs that do not even exist today will become commonplace. For example, experts in Information Technology (IT), environments, and biotechnology show high prospects; however, professions like mail carriers, farmers, and news reporters have a rather dim future. What is sure is that the required future ability will need to align its capability to catch up with the rapidly changing technology.
In the future, knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) will be especially needed for effective task performance. Most future technologies will be based on software techniques. Thus, how much one can utilize these technologies in the future depends on one’s STEM knowledge. Additionally, according to a survey by General Electronics in 2016, in the United States, 63% of total jobs will require education in STEM by 2018 and 15% of the advanced manufacturing department will require advanced degrees.
Furthermore, the flexibility to adapt to new roles and the ability to utilize knowledge practically will be required for the new generation. In particular, the ability to integrate the expertise and professional know-how that utilizes droids and Information & Communication Technology (ICT) will be more crucial. Such technologies are expected to help one work more effectively. Moreover, “soft skills” that activate teamwork and leadership within a flexible organization are expected to be more important in the future community.
Even though memory storing capabilities are likely to be substituted by automation of AI, human creativity and innovation are unique human traits that cannot be replaced. Benefitting from these changes, along with the variety sort of new ways of working, and new technologies, and, workers will have to become more creative. Robots might aid people get to where people want to be more productive, but unlike humanity they cannot be as creative. On the contrary, according to The Future of Jobs, active listening and quality control, which are considered core skills today, will disappear completely from the required skillsets. Instead, emotional intelligence will become one of the top skills. Consequently, technological expertise will need to be replenished by strong social cooperative abilities.
A study in the McKinsey & Company in 2016 shows as many as 45% of the tasks that Americans get paid to do could be automated by 2025. However, any given occupation involves a set of activities, some of which can be automated and some of which cannot. Michael Chui, a principal at the McKinsey Global Institute commented, “Few occupations will be automated in their entirety. Rather, certain activities are more likely to be automated, requiring entire business processes to be transformed, and jobs performed by people to be redefined. It is much like the bank teller’s job was redefined with the advent of ATMs.” In other words, automation will transform occupations with machines taking over what they do best and people doing more of what they do best.
Consequently, an education system that can nurture competent talent that future society asks for in humans is required. Thus, to proactively cope with future changes in the workforce, the future society must be equipped with a new curriculum of education.

The road for future education

Most of all, in order to strengthen the ability to cope with and adapt to future technologies, software education is necessary. Software education not only enhances flexibility with advanced technology, but also improves one’s computational thinking, which can help people to identify certain problems and seek solutions.
Along with the importance of educating such thinking, the United Kingdom has already designated 2014 as “The Year of Code” and is implementing software education for children of 5 to 16 years old. The United States also has operated curriculum “K-12” which teaches computer science to kindergarteners. Additionally, the United States is pushing ahead with its educational transformation plan, “ConnectED,” to help students to easily access high-speed Internet and advanced learning tools. In Europe, its commission tries to unveil a new educational environment called “Opening up Education” that intends to encourage students’ interest in ICT. Also, including digital educational devices, Europe is making effort to build IT-based environment in all of their educational courses.
In an interview with The Yonsei Annals, Kim Jin-hyung (Chairman, Korea National Open Data Strategy Council) commented, “Every technology of future society is based on software skills. Therefore, the South Korean government has decided to support software coding lectures in elementary schools starting from 2018. Moreover, to enhance accessibility and capacity for software education, the government should make more effort to establish an ICT based educational environment.”
Systemic transition in the education system is also necessary. Kim Jin-ha (Vice Researcher, Korea Institute of S&T Evaluation and Planning) explained to the Annals, that “in order to cultivate talented people with creative and convergent ability, it is necessary to change the education system to focus on students’ competency.” What most schools had put importance on was knowledge-based education. On the contrary, competency-based education emphasizes social skills with liberal arts. Already, in several countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States, there is a transition of the education system to nurture talented students with competency.
In the United States, there is a new type of university named the “Minerva School.” The Minerva School not only provides its lectures online, but also encourages debate in all its classes, rather than pursuing a unilateral teaching model. Additionally, new educational methods such as the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) have been introduced around the world by leading universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University. Since 2015, Yonsei University has also been providing K-MOOC service to broaden its educational opportunities and expand its service.
According to the survey in The Future of Jobs by the WEF, the ability to solve complex problems which enable finding problems and solutions was chosen as the educational goal required by 2020. Also, “critical thinking,” “creativity,” “human management,” and “collaboration” were chosen as necessary skillsets to problem-solving. According to the theory of James Heckman, these abilities are referred to as “non-cognitive skills.” Kim Joohan (Prof., Dept. of Communication, Yonsei Univ.) emphasized that “we need to look for ways to foster non-cognitive skills.” Rather than distributing simple knowledge, our education should teach how to communicate and how to make effort to address students’ needs. Professor Kim Joohan suggests that this can be achieved through increasing student autonomy in the classroom.
According to Professor Kim Joohan’s viewpoint, an autonomous environment in education can encourage students’ intrinsic motivation which is the key to improving non-cognitive skills. Therefore, South Korean government should also consider stimulating intrinsic motivation which can be achieved in an autonomous environment.
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Marti A. Hearst (Prof., School of Information and EECS Department, UC Berkeley) commented to theAnnals, “One of the most important issues concerning the Fourth Industrial Revolution is helping people keep their minds active and not being afraid to adjust to new things.” However, according to a research evaluated by the criteria that WEF emphasized for the future society, South Korea ranked 25th among countries that could adjust well to the upcoming Fourth Industrial Revolution. So far, South Korea has had a tendency to be a fast follower, following the movements of overseas countries. However, now it is time for South Korea to prepare for the Korean Fourth Industrial Revolution model, especially in the educational field.
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