I am a Scientist/Academic by background who in the 1970’s began to question the way in which we ‘do’ education and training. In particular I began to start to explore how technology can change the power dynamics away from the ‘expert’ imparting knowledge to the ‘uninformed’ towards a less hierarchical model where the student becomes empowered through discovering their own potential. For about 40 years I have been designing and creating software systems based on Mastery Learning principles and using simulations promote more ‘learning by doing’. Most of the work in the early decades was with the corporate sector, and our model proved to be especially effective with young people who had been previously disadvantaged and were regarded as being ‘untrainable’ because they were being forced by the old paradigm to move at a pace which was beyond them. With our Mastery/Simulation model, they could build solid foundations in their own time, and eventually built the confidence to move as fast as so-called ‘expert’ learners.
In the past decade I have shifted the focus away from the urban, corporate world to the many small towns and villages where more than 4 million young people are found who are Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET). We have set up centres where startup entrepreneurs are able to offer our CompuTutor course for a fee, and students gain skills which enable them to compete in the marketplace with their urban counterparts.
Over 3000 have completed this program, and their reactions to the experience show that they have changed in many ways apart from have gained skills for the workplace. They have lost their fear of failure, they have learned to power of never giving up, and they are more self-motivated in pursuing their goals.
We have built a foundation which shows that in areas with the deepest poverty and the least resources, young people can gain skills and rekindle hope and self-belief. My passion is firstly to expend the impact of this renewal through student sponsorships that would allow thousands of students access to this experience.
The next step I would like to explore is to find ways for these young people to become self-employed, since the availability of full-time employment will be constrained for some years into the future. The Fourth Industrial Revolution provides opportunities for innovative approaches to producing goods and selling services that could revitalise rural young people who have IT skills are are connected to the Web.
We have shown that a technology platform built around Mastery Learning principles can transform the way we learn and can allow everybody to succeed. Our Basic Education system is lowering its standards in order to improve inclusivity. I believe we could transform learning in our country, but entrenched paradigms seem to be too formidable to change. My dream is to be part of a movement which will steadily move this mountain, until 4IR Education will eventually become the new normal.
I would also like to see the tech/educational principles that we have proven to be effective, to be used to fast-track the progress of young people from many backgrounds, to push forward in areas such as advanced coding and entrepreneurship.
How I would change our world:
Our future promises seismic change in the nature of work. Agility, creativity, perseverance and the ability to function and keep growing in the world of technology will be the foundations for self-employment. I would like to be part of a movement that brings about an equally seismic change in the way we learn. We have some powerful indicators of the way forward, which I believe can contribute in a positive way towards this shift.