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Education -2050: will that be like reading a ‘fairy tale’ story’?

By G. Balasubramanian

The dynamics of change over the last fifty years has been mindboggling. More so, the last ten years have thrown several bombshells to the most established practices of learning. Many of the processes have timed out or have been replaced. Integration of technologies has resulted in integration of several devices through convergence of thought processes and resultant operational strategies. Sometimes one wonders how soon the society has accepted and opted to these changes without any resistance. When my friend Dr. Atul, raised a question what would be the shape of education by 2050, I responded by the statement ‘it would be a fairy tale’.

Then it would be nice to know what the core concepts are in a ‘fairy tale and how they would manifest in education?

A google search on fairy tales would indicate the following:
1. Some magic characters or magic elements
2. A historical opening like “once upon a time’… and ending with “they lived thereafter”.
3. A central conflict
4. A moral perspective
5. A lesson to carry home.

I believe that the instruments for learning, their interventional strategies, the challenges they create to customary and culturally established systems, the conflict managements, the progressive choices, and adoption to change and resultant transformations, alongside the lessons we carry to the future, do offer a parallel to the architecture of a fairy tale!

Ten important factors that would offer the seedlings for the draft of this fairy tale are:

1. The co-existence of Human Intelligence with Artificial Intelligence

2. Virtual and Augmented Realities embracing the Realities.

3. The intelligent nexus between the cause and effect

4. The race between the perceptual speed and electronic speed

5. Institutional learning supplementing self-learning and self-directed learning

6. The importance of “Learning to Be” and its conflict with “Learning to Become

7. Ammonisation of learning

8. Non-institutionalized instruments of skills and talents and their validation

9. Multi-layer and multi-polar learning

10. Freedom to Learn

1. Human Intelligence handholding artificial intelligence is a new dimension in human development. They feel neither a conflict nor an animosity between them. They consider their co-existence as a part of their evolution and as no threat to the survival of humans. However, no one knows. The marriage between the two should exist with mutual respect and their ability to hold on to the “Lakshman Rekha” they draw for each other. The watchdogs of social dynamics, culture, heritage, and philosophy will widely keep their eyes and ears open to the results of their functional dynamics. Nevertheless, the impact of their co-existence is likely to bring both new milestones and miseries to the learning community. While several ‘comfort zones’ in educational institutions will become uncomfortable, the call to continuously modernise and stay relevant will put extraordinary pressure on the systems. The emergence of several autopilots and robots replacing human action will play the role of the fairies of the tales!

2. The celebration of a ‘third eye’ created and compounded through technologies will bring new lenses for ‘conceptual visions.’ These lenses empowered through technologies will be both virtual and augmented, positioning themselves closer to realities. Planets, satellites, and other heavenly bodies will be brought down virtually to the experimental table for research. (It does exist, however the magics could be more specific and intense). With more comfortable journeys to the space and understanding of the cosmic diversity our roleplay with science and technologies will become fascinating and innovative. The microscopic genes and bacteria will further be viewed non-invasively into their inner architecture through nano-centric processes. The concepts of genetic modifications, genetic re-engineering will open new gateways of dealing with species. The proximate positioning of virtuality to reality would create the ‘fairy tale’ curiosity in the learners. Learning would become more skill-based and research-based than text based.

3. The intelligent nexus between cause and effect, the effort and the produce and the like would result in both diverse and exclusive convergence of knowledge resulting in the emergence of new subjects of studies, newer skills, newer methods of problem solving, with better time-consciousness, space management, operational strategies, and management perceptions. The impactful intrusion of scientific thinking and methods, the innovative diverse technologies that emerge will raise continuous questions relating to dogmas, practices and perceptions with rationalisation raising several questions on belief systems. No wonder, these would become bedrocks of conflicts on social platforms, the levels of acceptance of this nexus would be possibly force acceptability and resultant transformation.

4. Speed” would be defeated by “speed” – looks like a fairy tale. Isn’t it? Over the last two decades or more, we have broken several barriers of speed both through conscious efforts and effortlessly. Our perception of speed is being continuously outwitted by ‘speed drivers’ in each field of activity. These inventions are creating threats to conceptual speeds, oftentimes, creating a fear psyche in human approaches about their inability to cope. The trend is unlikely to stop. Both the conceptual speed and the operational speed boosted by science and technology would impact both lifestyles and learning styles. Possibilities of Pre-maturation resulting in emotional imbalances could be a matter of study for psychology. Behavioural science will deal with constant new questions on how and why humans behave like their techno counterparts.

5. Institutional learning will take a back seat facilitating and empowering the learner who is reaching out for articulation, consolidation, and construction of new knowledge. Facilitating the learners with open sources of learning, stress-free participative and collaborative learning, institutional strategies will change to help the learners in problem solving, project management and profile enrichment. Research orientation to link the heritage with the future, re-engineering the past into constructive and comforting pathway to a new goal, the institutions will become more wellness centres for enhanced mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. A modern model of a Guru-Sishya Parampara may emerge where personal mentoring of the learner by the teacher (immaterial of position, age, and discipline of learning) may find its way. The modern, young, professional, and authentic teachers may appear like fairies. The role of Artificial intelligence through visual, auditory, and sensory integrations will create a fairy land for learning.

6. With an ocean of data, information, knowledge, skills, and technologies to choose, the seeker of knowledge would face conflicts with diverse desires, provoked markets, mythical goals, and temptations for easy reach outs. Struggles, disappointments, failures, inability to handle achievements and cutting-edge competitions will force the learner to seek avenues of peace and mental health to stand strong in the community of learners. The age-old focus on “Learning to Be” will provide the much-needed solace to the learners as against “Learning to Become”. From material to inner enrichment and empowerment will find a lot of focus both in formal and non-formal gateways for learners. “Wealth” will seek a new meaning and seed newer approaches to celebrate life.

7. Amazon did create a history in shopping – choices, prices, comforts, and several other things which gravitated the attention of the buyers. It did create a sensation in markets by creating new perspectives to shopping. The idea percolated into other markets from food to textiles, books to furniture. The concept of EMIs made the shopping more accessible and reachable to the have nots. A similar access to reach and celebrate knowledge has already found its way through search engines liberating the learners from the pain of seeking, moving, and spending for the access. The addition of Voice overs and Audio packages changed the learning dimensions to create newer clientele. The year 2050 will celebrate many alternative models of knowledge packaged to a kind of ‘one-minute learning” however authentic or not. The authenticity and audit of WhatsApp information will come under more scrutiny with competitive knowledge distribution and supply-chain models to make learning happen. The fairy tale of learning will host innumerable number of fairies making learners dance to their tunes!

8. With the world of skills and competencies dominating, the focus will shift to assessment and certification of skills and talents by the agencies which are less academic and more oriented to operative, functional, and productive domains. The glamour of paper degrees getting relegated to the hind seat, the world of work would celebrate institutions which set forth functional competencies as their priority. Joint certifications will become the call of the day. Entrepreneurial skills backed by effective understanding of productivity, marketing, competitive consumer needs, future oriented designs, effective resource management and adequate knowledge of technological and fiscal skills will be defining parameters of the learning for the future. The educational system might be expected to integrate these ideas through case studies, problem solving strategies and innovative creative thinking methods. Fairy characters from different fields of activity will play the role of mentors, consultants, disappearing from the stage after short intervals of time once their game is over.

9. Hierarchical models of learning would give way to parallel learning strategies breaking all barriers to entry levels of learning. Learners will find unlimited opportunities for learning at different levels based on their learnability, aptitudes, attainments, and competencies. Institutions of learning would probably have to reconsider and redefine their existing methods of entry as well as strategies of addressing homogenous groups to heterogeneous group with multiple interests, multiple purposes, and multiple learning backgrounds. The learning characters on the institutional stage might provide a wide variety and spectrum of humans engaged with existential needs, aspirations, and goals. Convergence and divergence of knowledge will open blends of curriculum, blends of pedagogies and blends of technologies offering a spectrum of solutions.

10. Freedom to learn will both be a challenge as well as an opportunity to the learning generation. This will empower learning across ages without inhibitions, learning across communities and nations with a global outreach, always learning in new disciplines as freshers, learning without certification just for the existential needs and learning as a member of a life-long learning community. The idea of the aged learning from the young, the professional seniors learning from their juniors (if at all such a classification would exist), learning of preachers from practitioners would be some acrobats in the learning arena. Free flow of knowledge, instant availability of knowledge, short shelf life of knowledge will compel the learning universe to be busy and constantly engaged. Knowledge capsule packed for easy consumption and use, will make the commercial and competitive corporates to seek newer meanings to their business. Gamification of knowledge as an industry will barter with knowledge pundits holding their wisdom on the ivory towers to handhold and provide simplified yet authentic delivery models in the fields of cognitive learning. The research in neurosciences and neural learning will bring new landmark information to the cognitive therapists and pedagogues indicating the way learning happens and thus suggesting newer gameplans to enhance learnability. With deeper understanding of neuroplasticity, customised learning modules will be offered by eduprenurs as alternative solution. Fairies, like butterflies, are currently collecting the scent from the blossoming flowers of knowledge. The aroma is just spreading. Change is inevitable whether one likes it or not.

The stage is set for 2050. Despite all that is said and done, the strong framework of Indian education rooted in the value systems of Truth (Sathya) and Righteousness (Dharma), Universal Good and Peace will form the morals of the fairy tale to be delivered to all the learners!!

Albert Einstein said “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Possibly the future generation will write and live by some new fairy tales!