Skill Tech as opposed to Ed Tech

Tech is about hope. Tech is about turning dreams into reality – making the impossible, possible! It has the potential to disrupt a long existing status quo – act as the great leveller or as the liberator. In the world of crony capitalism, this provides a ray of hope.

This ray of hope seems quite faint in the world of Employability – a problem that continues to remain unsolved. A problem that has become so chronic that in a country like India, where we are staring at millions of youth who are out of the education system but not into jobs – this can cause demographic disaster.

Typically, for every 100 students enrolled in primary schools, only 50 finish Class 12 and of the remaining 50 who pursue undergrad programs, around 90% are unemployable => only 5 out of the starting100 are employable and that is after completing 16 years of education!! While one can argue that education is not just about employability/employment, the fact remains that this is one of the key expected outcomes and the question that is lingering in my mind is that do we really need 16 years of education? Can we do with 16 months instead? How about 12 months of base education ( the 3 Rs and some General Awareness) and 4 months spent learning how to stay skilled/informed always – the kind of behaviours/beliefs that needs to be acquired so that we stay relevant all the time. This is the critical skill required in the VUCA world where things change rapidly and where content is available abundantly. We’ll save a lot of money and time which could be deployed to solve other problems like skills, poverty etc.

The world of Skills & Employability is yet to be embraced by Tech (the way Silicon Valley understands it). This is rather unfortunate! Agreed, it is a complex space but isn’t that where we need tech the most? Or, should tech only focus on increasing asset utilisation or helping distribute someone’s money to someone else and in the process allowing the distributor to take a cut or transactions of similar nature? Then probably, we need to re classify the status given to tech, taking into cognisance its limitations or more importantly the limitations of the ones who hold the purse strings that can unleash this kind of tech!

It is a pity that whatever little tech is coming into this space is coming to help perpetuate the source of the problem i.e. Education and is popularly known as Ed Tech. And even here, most efforts are trying to accentuate the damaging effects/outcomes faster, cheaper, better! Rather than helping drive a fundamental shift in education and learning, most tech initiatives in this space are helping students to do better in tests ( as if these tests helped in any way to solve real world problems) or worse still to help run these tests at scale or help students and institutions optimise their match making process, or provide a platform for the stakeholders to communicate/teach/learn/share etc. – all peripheral/basic activities! Whatever little tech is being applied on the “core” learning issues is helping the learners understand and comprehend the concepts that were relevant for the First Industrial revolution or maybe the Second!

We need tech to be directed towards Skills & Employability – we need more of Skill Tech as opposed to Ed tech. The former’s impacts are wider and deeper and even from an economic perspective the market is much bigger than the Education market as skills is required by the ones who are in Education or out of it! We need to start talking/developing Skill Tech at scale rather rapidly if we have to solve this seemingly unsolvable problem.

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