Every passing day, we hear and read about the vertiginous changes that organizations are facing as a result of the so-called fourth industrial revolution. Technology is quickly taking over areas that were previously unexplored, or which had traditionally been controlled either directly or indirectly by human intervention. Nowadays, owning a car that self-diagnoses and even self-repairs without the need of taking it to a workshop is feasible. Cars may also be capable of driving themselves, precluding two trades so traditional as to be ancestral: mechanic and chauffeur.
The prophets of disaster predict that robotics, the omnipresence of the internet, and the use of mobile devices will destroy existing jobs, and that thousands and thousands of people will end up on the street. This was the same argument used at the time of the Industrial Revolution, and even at the end of the twentieth century with the appearance of technology, when many people thought they would be left jobless, replaced by machines and computers.
Not only was this not the case, but what actually happened was that new needs arose, new jobs were created, and, of course, new educational offerings emerged to satisfy the required demand. People simply reinvented, reeducated, and assimilated themselves to the new reality.
The transformation of education in order to adapt to the evolution of the environment is and will be always the key to facilitating transitions that bring with them social and cultural changes. Those of us who hold the responsibility of ensuring that people are prepared, and aligned with changing and global needs, are also responsible for planning education by always looking at least ten years into the future.
Several sources maintain that over 65 percent of students who are currently attending college will be employed in jobs that do not exist yet today, all of them related to technology and science. But the other side of the coin tells us that a high percentage of current elementary school students will study for jobs that will no longer exist in less than 20 years. This is worrisome, especially noting the staggering slowness with which educational offerings respond to change.
The reasoning above compels us to propose that current offerings and the training methodologies be transformed to incorporate more skill-development over conceptual learning. According to research by the World Economic Forum, the ability to solve complex problems, critical thinking, and creativity are the competencies that will be valued in the jobs offered in 2022.
Some countries already have advanced educational models for this reality. A few days ago, the daily news outlet, el País, presented us with the case of the Canadian province of Ontario, where 94% of students are enrolled in public centers. When they are 14 years old, the students are able to select the subjects in which they are most interested, and create their own educational itinerary. Additionally, students can choose between three levels of difficulty for each of those subjects: academic, to get into a University, “applied level” to select the equivalent of an education cycle, or “locally developed” for anyone who wants to quickly join the job market. On the other hand, in this province, teachers are contracted based on the needs of the educational center. There are no “oposiciones” (public examinations held to fill vacancies in the public sector on a national, provincial or local basis), and the centers’ directors determine how many teachers are needed for each course, and for which subjects. Everything is done based on the demand generated by the students’ itineraries. The teachers’ performance is evaluated every five years to ensure that they still meet the needs of the school.
The director of one such institute shares a practice of this model: “We put the focus on critical thought, since the information is on the Internet. We evaluate their work habits, self-control, responsibility, organization, collaboration, and their own initiative. These are the indicators of success in a student’s adult life.”
Another key aspect that should be present in the new education model is internationalization and/or globalization. Taken together, but with different approaches, these aspects deal with designing content and preparing teaching methodologies designed for audiences, not only physically coming from different countries and regions, but physically located in different countries and regions. Nowadays, the globalization of education, supported by technology, allows us to have first-rate didactic resources and immediately transmit those resources anywhere in the world. This type of education, seen as very complex by educational institutes some years ago, is a suit tailored to current and future generations, naturally technological and socially global. Several issues must still be resolved; among them the lingua franca; although the English language has become the standard, it is also true that are still millions of people that do not speak this language. Technology will probably resolve this difficulty, as well. There are already real-time voice translators that will have an immediate application in the educational sector.
Thus, this would seem to be the path to follow for education: to trade the conceptual for the analytical, the passive for the active, the individual for the collaborative, and the local for the global. The task consists, then, of the constant revision and adaptation of contents and methodologies, and the preparation of a body of teachers who act as advisers more than teachers, teaching the students to learn and guiding those students with methodologies that help them make the most of their education.
In the UPF Barcelona School of Management, we have accepted this challenge and have developed an educational model that takes into account the aspects previously mentioned in order to prepare professionals that can contribute transformative solutions to society. Professionals who are more versatile and multidisciplinary, capable of decisiveness, critical thought, creativity, and a more transversal point of view. Our model defends problem-based learning (PBL) and learning by doing as methods that allow students to complete their program not only with greater skills and knowledge, but also with the experience of having managed and carried out a real project from start to finish. Each student selects their individual project, which serves as the backbone of their learning process and will help them develop analytical and diagnostic abilities and other competencies necessary to carry out any project on personal and professional levels.