The PWC report titled ‘Workplace of the Future’ discusses on the competing forces shaping 2030. Triggered by four types of working worlds—Red (Innovation), Blue (Scale), Green (Societal) and Yellow (Human)—these forces not only will be transforming the workforce skills but also will exert significant pressure on the global higher education ecosystem to prepare the next generation of graduates.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) also has identified this tectonic shift as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4th IR). If history serves as our right guide, the 1st IR resulted in America’s ‘New Education’ that shifted higher education from the dominant classical approach towards the German model of postgraduate research leading to dozens of research universities in America. The 2nd IR (1860 to 1900) resulted in ‘New Economy’ fuelled by energy-based manufacturing technologies.
This new wave created and expanded access to higher education institutions in the North Americas and Europe. The 3rd IR was characterised by the rapid growth of information technology through computerisation and web inter-connectivity developed through the 1980s and 1990s. The ripple effect of this is still being felt across different stakeholders. The 4th IR has many tipping points for technology and society to undergo a rate of change that is unprecedentedly necessitating a tectonic shift in the future of education.
The architect of the term 4th IR, the WEF, has several of these tipping point examples—implantable cell phones by 2025, 80 percent of people with digital presence by 2023, 10 percent of reading glasses connected to the internet by 2023, 90 percent of people connected to smartphones and the internet by 2023, one trillion sensors connected to the internet, 50 percent of internet traffic directed to homes and appliances by 2025, etc. Increasing population and loss of arable land due to global climate change, social behavioural changes due to a connected world, growth and evolution of organisations, geopolitical race for intellectual and economic supremacy, etc. have also aggregated together towards a clarion call for preparing the next generation of learners into a work and life space characterised by the 4th IR.
The sequencing of higher education to renew skills and create a life-long learning ecosystem in an environment that is dynamically networked by 4th IR features is a critical challenge to overcome. Apart from the complexities in the global higher education landscape, the Indian higher education—one of the largest in the world—has its own influencing variables.
Not only has it got the uphill task of scaling up to the demands of the 4th IR but also needs to do it in an ecosystem burdened with varied forms and style. This will easily be the world’s largest effort to build a talent pool of students and faculty for survival and leadership roles. Like the Stanford 2025 project or other global university transformation missions, such a massive Indian effort requires a research-innovation-teaching-learning roadmap with a vision, strategy and action agenda spanning over a 15-year period. In short: Global Industrial Revolution 4.0 Requires Indian Education 2.0.
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