August 22, 2017

LIFELONG LEARNING

This spring over 37,000 Mongolian students are finishing their high school and are preparing to continue their study in higher education institutions, including universities and technical colleges. But the question is whether Mongolians are able to prepare their children adequately so that they can pursue their careers and build their lives by effectively adapting to the ever-changing circumstances of today’s society.

The current pace of scientific and technological advances is consistently upping the criteria for professionals in all industries. It is also making it harder to predict what new professions are being created and what type of skills would be required. The demand of this development is now only satisfied by more flexibility in education and more effort from individuals to obtain education and knowledge.

Change in learning

It can be said that – over 200 years ago when the Industrial Revolution started taking place – the mankind transitioned into an education system that relied on schools. In other words, schools were key to providing education to people en masse, and meeting the strong demand of industrialization. This made schools the source of education and knowledge.

Starting from nearly 20 years ago, the sources of education and knowledge as well as the mechanisms of exchanging information have undergone significant changes as another revolution gained pace in information technology. It was followed by drastic changes in the way education is provided, and every country has been operating on different gears on this journey. The schools have been too slow in adapting to these changes. This difference in the adapting speed has been capitalized by private schools, which is why we are seeing the number of private education instituions rise globally.

Politicians are portraying income inequality and the gap between the rich and the poor as main issues of our development. However, what is worrying people the most is having stable income and keeping their jobs. Nowadays a decent job is increasingly requiring someone to have new skills and learn continuously.

A self-driving truck has recently been unveiled in the United States. Uber announced that these OTTO trucks can transport 100 tonnes of goods anywhere. The United States currently has approximately three million trucks, each of which is driven by two persons in shifts to meet 70 percent of total transport demand. It clearly demonstrates the magnitutde of change that the self-driving trucks would bring. In some large cities, self-driving cars are already in service.

Similarly, we can have self-driving cars by 2040, and get to where we want without touching the wheel of our car. The development of artificial intelligence is on the rise, creating automatic control systems with better performance than how human brain would operate. Robots are taking over jobs people do.

In 2014 Intel started producing 14-nanometer (one nanometer equals one billionth of a meter) processors, which means they installed 37.5 million transinstors in a square millimetre. The company intends to make new 10-nanometer processors by late 2017, which would almost triple the number of transistors in a square millimetre, which demonstrates the Moore’s Law in action. For example, if the current self-driving car has a processor as big as its backseats, these new chips would allow the processor to shrink as small as the glovebox, but with tripled computing speed. This could translate into ongoing engine monitoring, and prediction of upcoming faults. Another example is that an international drilling company is overseeing all of its activities and costs from a single room in the United States. A driller today is not someone who has oil on his clothes, but a software operater on a computer. This new Intel processor is about to make similar changes in many industries.

Need for continuous learning

We are seeing the gradual disappearing of the concept that you would be able to support your life for over 20-30 years with the education you obtained from a university. What it means is that learning is now owned more by individuals, not by schools. Motivating yourself to learn, and obtaining new skills and knowledge continuously have become the most important skill in life.

It is becoming more important to focus the discussions with a new graduate on how to keep learning, instead of what to do for a living. The time has come for one profession to be in the conjunction of many other professions, which has required people to continuously learn, feel the changes, and adapt to them by using your knowledge and education. New tools such as Khaan Academy that help people acquire such skills are now being introduced in every country.

Learning is not only about knowing, but also about doing, being, and living together. These are the four pillars of learning, as UNESCO defined:

Learning to know is about providing the cognitive tools required to better comprehend the world and its complexities, as well as an appropriate and adequate foundation for future learning. Learning to do involves provide the skills that would enable individuals to effectively participate in the global economy and society.

Learning to be is about providing self analytical and social skills to enable individuals to develop to their fullest potential psycho-socially, affectively as well as physically, for a all-round complete person.

Learning to live together is about exposing individuals to the values implicit within human rights, democratic principles, intercultural understanding and respect and peace at all levels of society and human relationships to enable individuals and societies to live in peace and harmony.

Mongolian schools and universities offer limited opportunities to learn under these four pillars. It was mentioned above what changes are coming to ‘learning to know and do’. These two pillars of learning are measured by IQ (intelligence quotient). Our schools do not specially prepare students to ’learn to be and live together’. But these two pillars play a more prominent role than the previous two pillars to achieve happiness in life. Emotional quotient (EQ) is more important than IQ. These quotients in people are influenced by traditional and national values, parents, and friends.

If an individual plans in advance, learns with purpose and knows what to do with that knowledge, he or she gains stronger competitiveness than others. The time we are living in and the constant changes we face require us to learn continuously for our lifetime.