In a digitalised society where most people have access to learning, glitzy diplomas and conventionally acquired knowledge through the rigours of an outdated education system will only get you so far. With rapid spread of technology at all levels, workers of the future must develop a means of constantly refreshing their skill set in order to stay relevant. While routine activities will become increasingly automated, value today will be derived mainly from human interaction – primarily, the ability of inventing and interpreting things that machines cannot. A new model of university learning will have to be set up – one that will future-proof students with skills of lifelong learning by imparting foundational knowledge along with up-to-date skills.
It is essential to lay stress on students ‘learning to learn’ – in developing sound reasoning skills that enable observation and rationalisation capabilities. Recent advances in data science and computational methods have forced us to rethink the traditional pillars of complex technical learning. With computers increasingly becoming central to leveraging data and formulating questions, acquiring radically new means of reasoning has become crucial. A holistic new discipline blending statistics, computer science, language programming and machine learning needs to become the third pillar of technical studies – along with the traditional pillars of Mathematics and Physics.
Any such reformation in the curricula must be intertwined with various technical modules necessary for the specific projects being worked on – especially for an advanced degree. This will allow direct use of theoretical concepts in real-world projects and scenarios, providing a rich learning context impossible to generate in pure classroom settings. For example, if a project requires building of an integrated circuit, one can take a quick advanced module on microelectronics. This is specialised learning based on the fundamentals garnered from the primary technical degree – an approach that will allow developing any requisite skills at any point in the future. Apart from acquiring new technical acumen, this would also be an excellent opportunity for honing key social, transversal and entrepreneurial skills like team leading, design thinking, or resource planning – all crucial for future growth, and difficult to automate as yet!
Technical learning can thus become an open-ended portfolio of accomplished projects complimented by an ever-expanding bouquet of technical skills which gets updated throughout life, in sync with constant technological evolution. It is necessary that we keep building upon the foundational pillars of conventional knowledge through lifelong learning – and stay relevant.