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Educational Requirements for the 21st Century

21st century represents the information age and offers different challenges from the 20th century which represented the industrial age. The transition to the information age from the industrial age heralds specific challenges in the area of education and learning:

Mass Production Assembly Lines are Out

Need for assembly lines for the mass production of standardized supervisors, managers, engineers or technologists (also called schools) will diminish. Information age requires people who are nimble enough and who can quickly learn new technologies and new ways of doing things. There will never be time enough go in to expensive training institutes and universities. People will have to learn quickly on their own. Therefore, self learning is a very important part of their skill set.

  • Information age economy will have most people working from their homes through internet on a per project basis for different companies. They would be paid not because they have a CV containing a list of large number of degrees or diplomas, but they would be paid on the basis of their portfolio of past projects and their ability to complete the projects on time and within resource constraints. Even in Pakistan, there are already several organizations that allow their employees to work from their homes. This trend is going to explode exponentially. Very soon all services would be outsourced to off-site people or organizations (See Business Process Outsourcing).
  • Work in the industrial age was typically in jobs whose major attraction was that they were career oriented, they started in a large company after graduation and typically lasted till the retirement. However, in the information age, jobs are typically not going to last a life time spanning the entire career in a single company. Job security is out. There would be frequent job and company switches. People would have to be enterprising enough to find out opportunities whereever they exist after every few years or even months.
  • Work in the information age is often short term, contractual, assignment oriented and project based. People are required to be experts in handling projects of all sizes. They need to have crucial interpersonal skills and intra-personal skills necessary for completing the projects on time.
  • Organization in the information age are not mega organizations employing tens of thousands of full-time people. Organizations are smaller, entrepreneurial and virtual. They often shift their focus from one domain to another. Such entrepreneurial organizations require people who are enterprising and who can look at the big picture and have the ability to solve real life problems and can quickly shift from one domain to another. Real life problems never map to any subject text book boundary nor do they come in a one-size-fits-all curriculum! 
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    Regimented Schools are Out

    Analysis of the emerging realities indicates that the need for regimented schools that prepare with a fixed syllabus,  broken down in to neat subject boundaries, where every thing that a student has to learn is laid out in advance is going to diminish.

    Information age requires students to be enterprising, self motivated, intellectually independent, committed to the completion of work for as long as it takes.



  • An information age company often has to recast its business into new areas quickly (see Intel's CEO and founder Andy Grove's book "Only the Paranoid Survive"). Rapid changes in technology and means of communications would not let most companies to settle down in one particular area. Companies would require people who like to work on their own developing crucial new skills and new understandings to enable them to take advantage of the shifting scenarios.
  • More work would revolve around entrepreneurial initiatives rather than settled jobs. This means that instead of waiting for someone to tell a person what to do, people would have to be enterprising enough to seek out new opportunities, explore new worlds, and to scan for new ways of doing things. What is required is the intellectual independence to think on one's own. 
  • Strive for intrinsic motivation, self learning, and self-direction are the essential functions of long term visions and ability to take risks and not be discouraged by failures and adversity are the hallmarks of an entrepreneur who is forever on the lookout for new worlds. 
  • To make sense of the rapid changes driving our life, we need long term visions than can provide us with anchor. To make world a safe place from exploitation, deterioration, climate change and global monopolistic control requires social and environmental leadership/entrepreneurship.
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Education in 21st Century


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