Preparing for The fourth Industrial Revolution

A friend asked: “As the fourth industrial revolution is happening all over the world, what can we do to take advantage of it? Where should we start and what areas should we be focusing on.”

I answered: “To prepare for the fourth Industrial Revolution, many countries have passed laws to improve their manufacturing industry by having automation devices or creating more high-technology centers with tax incentives that favor import and export etc. However, in my view, they will NOT succeed because they forget the most fundamental factor: “The talents to execute technologies.” Contrary to many beliefs, the fourth industrial revolution is NOT about technology, because technologies are here, they exist and evolving but the fundamental ingredient of this revolution is the TALENTS or the knowledge and skills of the workforce that implement these technologies. Any country can buy technologies such as Robots, Smart automated systems, and Artificial Intelligence but if they cannot implement them or have people to manage them, they will fail.”

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“The best way to take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution is to EDUCATE everybody in Information technology. In other words, the entire education system must be “re-oriented” to focus on technology so everybody knows how to use the computer, computer tools, and the Internet. Why? Because everything today and the future will be based on information technology and the Internet. The Internet is the foundation of the fourth Industrial Revolution, without the Internet to connect everything, there is no revolution.”

“As the public know how to use the computer and the Internet, all students must be taught about the science behind information technology. A computer is only a tool but the knowledge of information technology with its concepts, methods, techniques will allow students to create and innovate then making progress that helps improve the economy, raises the standard of living for their people. It will take several years to educate a massive number of students in information technology but we need to start NOW, else it is too late.”

“The first thing to do is to change the current view of “getting the degree” to developing the “knowledge and skills.” The basic education curriculum should focus more on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and emphasize the proper use of technology such as ethics, morale, and integrity to avoid future misuse of technology. Today many technology education is NOT well executed as there is not enough qualified teachers and proper curriculum. To solve this issue, all current teachers must be re-trained in technology education. All future teachers who are currently in school must be trained in information technology to prepare for the coming change. Without starting with the teachers, the education system cannot be improved. To accelerate this change, it is important to give more incentives to the teaching profession such as better salary and benefits.

“A few months ago, a friend asked me about my article on Finland’s education system as it is considered one of the best in the world. He told me that he wanted to adopt this curriculum for his private school. I explained: “Thirty years ago, Finland’s education was not better than other European countries, and even behind Germany, Russia, and the UK. But how did it become the best? It did not start with the curriculum but with a new generation of teachers where only the best students can enter the education field. By selecting the best and incentivize them with a high salary, it completely revolutionized the entire education system. In Finland, the teachers determine what to teach, how to teach, and when to teach certain subject depending on the pace of the students. They do not need to have annual tests, because they know the students well enough to evaluate them. I concluded: “It is easy to adopt a curriculum but without dedicated teachers, it will not work.” He listened carefully but not convinced. Only after traveled to Finland and observed the system himself, he returned and thanked me for my advice. He said: “I may spend my money foolishly if I did not see how the system works there myself. You are correct, everything in education must start with the teachers. it is EASY to adopt a good curriculum from another country but without qualified teachers who can teach the subject, nothing will happen.”

“To take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution, we need to start teaching technology to all students from an early age. Elementary school students must know how to use the computer and access to education programs on the Internet. High school students should know the basic concepts, principles, and practices of information technology (i.e., can write simple code in Java, Swift, Python.) College students, including students in business, economics, literature, social study, and arts, must take some technology courses so they can develop additional knowledge and skills in this field. Why? Because all future occupations will require the use of information technology.”

“The fourth Industrial Revolution will change everything, every business, every society in a massive way that many people may not be able to imagine. It will happen quickly and unexpectedly and disrupt everything, unstabilize any economy and government. Unless we really understand the impact of the fourth industrial revolution, what is happening and what will happen, we may not know how to take advantage of it and miss a “golden opportunity” to solve the unemployment and poverty issues .By NOT prepare, by NOT improve the education system, by NOT develop a well-educated workforce, we are harming our future generation both educationally and economically.”

Sources

  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University