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Preparing students for workforce of future

Educational institutions need to transform the way they teach

Singapore is one of Asia-Pacific's biggest success stories when it comes to education. At both the school and university levels, the country regularly comes out on top in global education league tables.

The most recent Programme for International Student Assessment ranking showed that Singapore teenagers are the highest achieving globally in mathematics, reading and science.

In tertiary education, Singapore's Nanyang Technological University is ranked 11th in the world in the 2018 QS World University Rankings, ahead of many Ivy League schools.

High graduate salaries and good placement rates are testament to the quality of the education system in Singapore.

But the speed with which technology is reshaping the way we work means Singapore cannot afford to rest on its laurels.

Organisations are adopting technology to increase efficiencies and outcomes and go to market in new ways. This is stimulating change in every aspect of business, from shrinking business life cycles to creating jobs that did not exist even a couple of years ago.

Intelligent automation will elevate the roles people play, while also unleashing the potential to create millions of new jobs and industries. What does this mean for Singapore's universities and institutions, tasked with training the people who will be hired to fill these roles?

How we learn and teach skills needs to change. Traditional educational paths such as multi-year university degrees that do not focus on lifelong learning will not equip people for a career constantly disrupted by technology.

Here are three key elements that will drive effective learning for the workforce of the future:

COLLECTIVE LEARNING AND GROWTH

Companies are shifting from working in silos to become more team-focused.Effective learning strategies need to reflect these changes and incorporate approaches that introduce skill sets such as how to work collaboratively.

So rather than asking a student to write a thesis in their final year, deciding whose is the best and grading it accordingly, encourage students to see what they can achieve together and reward groups that can become more than the sum of their parts.

IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCES THROUGH VIRTUAL AND AUGMENTED REALITY

According to the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report, by 2020, over a third of the desired core skill sets of most occupations will comprise skills that are not considered crucial in today's jobs.

The demand for information technology skills will continue to grow.

The use of new technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) could help future employees transform theory into practice.

For example, doctors who have been using AR and VR throughout their education and training will undoubtedly be better equipped to use these tools to their optimal capabilities on the job.

Universities and training institutions need to provide the technology that students will be using in their future jobs.

Using technology such as VR and AR to create engaging, education-focused content should set the new standards in our schools and universities.

In turn, this will drive the corporate world to set their own new standards of engagement and technology-driven processes in the workplace.

PERSONALISED LEARNING EXPERIENCES

Knowing that humans perform better at things they enjoy, educational institutions should do their best to provide enjoyable learning environments.

Technologies that analyse the needs, preferences and progress of students on a 24/7 basis are already available.

According to a McKinsey report, increasing the use of student data in education could unlock between US$900 billion (S$1.2 trillion) and US$1.2 trillion in global economic value.

Education institutions could, for example, leverage advanced data analytics platforms to revolutionise admissions, coursework and continuing education.

By capturing, aggregating, analysing and acting upon data-driven insights at every stage of the student life cycle, educators can create "student personas".

With these kinds of insights, institutions can implement tailored learning environments in the fields each student is the mostly likely to shine.

These digital approaches to education may seem daunting. But in keeping with Singapore's history of innovation and being forward-thinking, institutions dedicated to delivering effective learning need to choose - either create and implement plans to transform learning experiences for students rapidly and continuously or fall behind.

The result will be future generations of educated professionals with the right skills and attitude towards learning that will future-proof them against whatever technological innovations are ahead.

The writer is head of digital business, Asia-Pacific, for business and technology services consulting firm Cognizant.

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