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Sunday Times-Business Times Q&A: The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Topic: The connections and disconnections within the education value chain which will influence success during the time of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

From left to right: Masechaba Ndlovu, Dr. Andile Mtotywa, Prof. Caroline Long, Ms. Sonqoba Maseko


Education Conversations

Kagiso Trust in partnership with the University of Johannesburg’s Faculty of Education held its Education Conversations on 24 July 2018.  The Education Conversations encourages our nation to talk and creates a space for an ongoing debate through which diverse voices can be heard. This year’s Education Conversations series has been unpacking the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) as a theme. The second of the three-part Education Conversations series focused on the “Connections and disconnections within the education value chain which will influence success during the time for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

What is the African perspective on the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

A key part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the context of Africa is that inclusive growth should receive attention, ensuring that everyone receives an equal opportunity to be active participants in the economy during the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The vast and growing potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is yet to be fully grasped. The ICT sector, industry and governments have a responsibility to unlock its potential for citizen service delivery, customer experience and innovative solutions, for a better life for all.

The Future of Jobs and Skills in Africa report suggests that, in order to prepare for the future of work, the region (Africa) must expand its high-skilled talent pool by developing future-ready curricula, with a large portion of that focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and an interdisciplinary approach to learning where rigorous academic concepts are coupled with the real-world. More importantly, these skills are critical for the development and sustainability of entrepreneurs who are central to the future of South Africa and the rest of Africa.

In his  speech, the Vice Chancellor and Principal of UJ, said “Africa can not afford to be spectators, we must actively participate, we must be activists of the 4IR.”  What we need are active citizens who are driven and demographically diverse, to make a difference in society and ensure that education of Africans becomes the new form of activism.

The panel at the Education Conversations explored the topic further.


  1. What have we done right so far in terms of preparing our education system for the 4IR?

Government has begun to talk about the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  At the end of May 2018, Parliament held its conversation about the 4IR, we all hope that their discussions will now culminate into the development of policy and legislation that enables the citizens to effectively participate in the 4IR. For example, focusing on which critical skills our economy needs and access to mobile or internet data which is the heartbeat for the 4IR to function (currently, data is very expensive).  Current research shows that citizens who cannot afford data have the least knowledge about the 4IR. So, we hope this start of policy discussions will ensure that the citizens are enabled to take advantage of the opportunities. Furthermore, the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Naledi Pandor’s budget speech promised to set-up a multi-sectoral task team to advise the higher education sector on how it should take up opportunities associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Basic Education is driving to prioritise STEM in schools and also creating schools that specialise in science and technology. Two of these specialised schools were recently launched in Atteridgeville, and 25 more are planned for Gauteng. These are all critical initiatives that are preparing our education system for the 4IR. We must acknowledge that it is still in its infancy, but we must complement government for piloting these specialised science and technology schools.

When people are empowered with knowledge, they are able to change their behaviour and act on it. Therefore, government must continue to pursue the 4IR by fast-tracking policy and creating an enabling environment and make the equal participation top of the national agenda –  Dr. Andile Mtotywa Managing Director, Business and Social Research Institute.

  1. What can we do to ensure that the education value chain thrives during the 4IR?

Some of the things that I think need to be done to prepare the education value chain for the Fourth Industrial Revolution include reviewing and assessing what it is we can do differently and asking ourselves what is aligned or disconnected.  We also need to critically ask ourselves, what is going to make us successful as a country and as a continent and integrating those assessments into the education value chain. Curriculum is also an area we need to start reviewing; we need to ensure that the curriculum makes learning real and relatable to what learners and students see around them each day. The school environments need to be assessed in relation to infrastructure appropriateness and create an environment that is conducive for collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.

Having a global view and implementing on best practice will enable us to prepare and equip the education value chain for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  –  Ms. Sonqoba Maseko Former Chief Operations Officer, Sifiso Learning Group. 

  1. To what extent is our curriculum in basic education ready for the 41R?

We need to ensure that children, especially those in rural areas, are not left behind during the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  This can be done by connecting them to technology in the classroom. This can be achieved by training and empowering teachers to use technology as part of curriculum delivery so that they are well equipped to impart content and skills to learners.  In rural or peri-urban communities all households have access to cell phones and we can start by using the available technology and align it to teacher content with the available technology.  Collaboration with the private sector in the ICT and telecommunications is another key component. The schooling system can leverage off their resources.

By using technology for teacher development, teachers are able to be paired and connected with other teachers across the country, continent and the world, so that they are able to share experiences and best practice.  Therefore, technology is key to ensure that teachers and learners from disadvantaged schools are not left behind.  Learners need to be equipped to become 21st century learners by exploring future robust and emerging jobs as careers in the 4IR. The emerging new jobs identified would include App developers, Driverless car engineers, Big data/ data scientists, Social media, Drone operators and Millennial generation experts just to name a few. Therefore, learners and students will be required to have skills that test their critical thinking, creativity, innovation and the ability to provide solutions to social and economic problems. – Ms. Sizakele Mphatsoe Education and Civil Society Head, Kagiso Trust.

  1. We are already in the 4IR, how are students in higher education being prepared to enter the 4IR job market?

From my experience as a teacher in higher education, I think that the most important thing is to instill the idea of agency in students.  In my Maths class, I showed my students the Hidden Figures film.  The film is about three African American women, who were very critical for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Space programme and those three women showed incredible agency against all odds.  My students loved the movie and from that point on anything that showed limitation, I would refer them to the movie for them to gather courage.  One of my students who was present at the Education Conversations came to talk to me, and I asked her “why do you think I showed you that film?” She answered by saying “you showed it to us so that we can tap into our courage.” I think that is the most important thing that students who exit higher education should have, the courage to tackle whichever challenges they may encounter. These challenges could be technological, social or human engagements so long as they have courage and agency they will be able to develop solutions.  Prof. Caroline Long, University of Johannesburg.



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