Education Opinion

New technology promises to improve access and quality of education

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Education promises to evolve as technology evolves (image via Flickr)

As we embark on the technological revolution journey, it's clear that technology plays a significant role in all aspects of our lives and the education sector is no exception.

There is no denying that several new technology-enabled platforms have been adopted or are slated to be used in the education sector, including the internet of things (IoT), cloud computing, and the use and proliferation of mobile devices and apps, as well as platforms for developing mobile applications, sensor technology, remote monitoring, artificial intelligence, blockchains (which are distributed ledgers), bitcoins and technology-enabled platforms for on-demand and sharing economies.

In today's world, there is a great deal of technological capital that must be absorbed one-to-one, which explains why preparing for the future of education is so critical, as described by Edward Christian Prescott, Nobel laureate and adjunct distinguished economics professor at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, Australia.

While it is true that education is one of the most necessary services that the world has to offer, at the same time, it is also becoming more and more expensive with each passing year.

This can be attributed to the fact that much of the development sector is human-intensive, which implies that people should have expertise to achieve maximum impact. Since education is a service that requires a great deal of talent because of increased demand, efforts should be directed to make education affordable and accessible.

As technology advances, one of the benefits will be the reduction in labour intensity, which will, in turn, allow educational services to become more affordable in the future.

Fast forward to today, modern technologies can be used to reduce human dependence on the environment. As a result of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, a noted technologist, Siddhartha Paul Tiwari from Google Singapore, and distinguished visiting professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, states that societies will have to devote increasingly more resources to the education sector in the future.

Dr Tiwari has considerable experience designing courses and curriculums for universities and instructional institutes in Asia that emphasise artificial intelligence and the internet. He believes that by providing the proper education, it will be possible to lower the cost of talent to operate the emerging technologies.

While other experts also believe that the use of modern technology will assist in preventing the high cost of education. Alternatively, one can also assert that the IoT and its applications in education may need faculty expertise. But these skills are used to enhance accessibility in the system and reduce costs therein.

The only way to become successful in this emerging era of technology is through developing human talent over capital, which is why education is seen as an important component of success. Talent and its presence in an organisation have a significant impact on the organization's long-term performance, and that is true beyond any doubt.

In addition to the material resources (for example, labour and capital), personnel is one of the most essential elements that can determine the success of a business. When your business has minimal dependency on labour or capital, the task can be efficiently performed without a lot of labour or capital (as in Uber's growth in the "sharing" economy).

In the current market environment, high-skilled individuals are being rewarded with higher salaries, which raises the question of whether the current education system is preparing the younger generations for the future.

According to the late South African statesman Nelson Mandela, education is the most powerful weapon a person can use to change the world for the better. The education sector is about to undergo a revolution, which will be possible due to individuals like Dr Tiwari. Still, there is a great deal of work to be done.

Several countries in Asia serve as hubs of education. They have a global presence and have attracted substantial private investment in educational facilities that operate online and recruit international students.

In light of the current situation, it can be interesting to look at some of the regional capabilities within Asia, and we can see where this may lead. The impact of emerging technologies on the education sector in Asia in the coming decades is likely to be profound. However, the extent and speed of these effects may depend on the speed with which these technologies are adopted in Asia.

As different societies, we have a responsibility to make sure that the next generation is equipped with the holistic skills they need to navigate through an uncertain and complex future, as well as to stay abreast of new technologies and the changes they are causing. To reform education systems, it is vital to consider the political, economic, social, and technical aspects of the transformation process.

Amid a global financial crisis, policymakers should consider the efforts of other countries as a source of inspiration and learn from their experience in implementing sustained systemic reforms.

The inclusion of emerging technologies in education reform is neither a singular event nor a moment; these endeavours require an enormous amount of time and effort and stakeholder engagement and compromise. Incorporating these technologies incrementally determines their long-term impact. No doubt, it is the right time to act now, and educational systems and educators worldwide must play a leadership role in imparting these skills to the next generation.

There is no point in leaving it to chance. As technology transforms the global economy, education must evolve so that society has the skills it needs to deal with complex challenges and the uncertainty of a rapidly evolving global economy.

Muhammad Abdul Basit is a political scientist and a freelance columnist. He writes on international relations and sociopolitical issues.

Maryam Ali is a Lahore-based content writer and physical therapist. She focuses on social issues and writes on different niches including medical issues and current affairs. 

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