The government should implement strategies aimed at dealing with the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) instead of searching for inputs on how it will look.
These were among the concerns shared by the audience during a two-day 4IR research colloquium organised by the higher education and training department, which began on Wednesday at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg, Gauteng.
The department organised the colloquium with the sector education and training authorities, the SA Qualifications Authority and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
Researchers debated how their findings could be used to inform planning, policy, strategy and practice, and interrogated how higher education institutions were transforming teaching and learning for the 4IR.
Although City Press asked for an interview with Gwebinkundla Qonde, the department’s director-general, he referred this reporter to the communications team, which in turn asked that questions be emailed to Minister Blade Nzimande’s spokesperson.
At the time of going to print, responses to questions were not provided.
A member of the audience at the colloquium said her concern was that the stage of looking for inputs on how the 4IR would look like had passed.
“If we don’t take the 4IR seriously and change the education system, we’re are going to be in trouble. We’ve not even touched on [implemented strategies for] the 4IR. That’s the concern. I think we must run with this in the country and on the continent,” said another audience member, adding that there needed to be recognition that the 4IR was under way.
“We need to find answers on how the changing landscape will affect young people to ensure that their competences are relevant. Clearly, there is no need to study [for outdated] degrees or diplomas,” said a third audience member.
“Whether you buy into 4IR or not, it doesn’t matter. What is scary is that young people are excited about it and the question is, are we prepared? That’s what is scary about it. We really need to move with urgency; we can’t continue to ignore this,” said another member of the audience.
“We’ve got to include critical thinking and problem-solving in our education system. Our kids need to think outside the box.”
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Geci Karuri-Sebina, a visiting fellow at Wits University’s school of governance and a member of the education department’s 4IR ministerial task team, said Africa was already lagging behind in some areas despite the optimism about the opportunities presented by the 4IR.
She was delivering her presentation on sustainable development in Africa through the 4IR.
Karuri-Sebina said there was a need for a sense of urgency, imagination, inclusiveness and self-reliance and that Africa needed to embrace it in its culture and give it its own identity.
Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, deputy vice-chancellor for research and postgraduates’ affairs at Wits University and also a member of the department’s 4IR ministerial task team, said there was a need to think about leap-frogging and how it could be done.
“The modern computers, for instance, can programme themselves, which means even coding might be extinct in the next 20 years,” he said.
4IR was predicted in the 1960s, he said, adding that it was nothing new.
“We need to move and rise,” Vilakazi said.
However, Qonde said in his opening address that proper governance and prudent use of financial resources were among the key issues required to be undertaken for 4IR strategies to succeed.
He said the biggest challenge of the continent was poor governance.
“If we shy away from confronting these realities we are not going anywhere,” Qonde said.
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