Using technology for skill development

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Racquel Shroff
Co-founder, myKensho

Digital technology platforms not only aid development of key competencies for the 21st century, but smart solutions also help proactively identify students at risk of disengagement, track progress, measure outcomes and enhance aspirations, learning levels and decision making. One such technology is Go Career which enables a personalised skills development and career journey for every student. It connects students with their parents and teachers and stimulates sequential evidence based activities, interactions, and feedback.

India has the world’s largest youth population. To capitalise on this demographic dividend, India needs to create more jobs through innovation and entrepreneurship as well as ensure the that all graduates find the right fit. While the government has launched several initiatives such as Digital India, Skill India, Make in India and Smart Cities, a strategic and co-ordinated approach to skills policies and implementation is needed, to improve outcomes and minimise skills mismatch.

In such a scenario, skill development at school level has become pertinent. Here, Racquel Shroff, Co-founder, myKensho shares his views on the same.

Q: The focus of the new education policy appears to be on development of skills among the learners. In an educational scenario, where the current ‘certification’ focused delivery systems in schools have become irrelevant, how do you see this paradigm shift would help to generate a sense of relevance to imparting education?

Racquel: We live in a global interconnected knowledge economy where technology has a profound impact on the way we live, learn and work. Automation, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things are disrupting the education sector and job market. The majority of jobs of the future haven’t yet been invented, while many traditional job roles including teaching, are being radically altered, and online education and MOOCS, have made education more accessible, learner-centric, and even cheaper.

The core outcome of school education is to prepare students for the future beyond school. But knowledge alone isn’t enough for students to succeed in this rapidly evolving future. Students require interpersonal, problem-solving, creative and critical-thinking skills, as well as social and emotional skills, career management and intercultural competencies and the ability to apply what they have learned in the real world. Therefore, for schools to stay relevant, the development of these core skills and digital literacy, is absolutely essential.

Q: With greater focus on ‘skill development in schools’ what do you think are the opportunities and challenges to school systems to respond meaningfully to the emerging needs?

Racquel: Success in both the classroom and the workplace of the future will require skills in self-directed lifelong learning, the application of knowledge along with an open mindset to solve complex interdisciplinary challenges and the ability to adapt to change. ‘Skills’ development also includes development of character traits, good work ethics and habits, higher order thinking, social and leadership skills. The foundations of this must be built during the formative years in school, when beliefs, values, perceptions can be positively influenced and young people can be channelized in the right direction based on their potential and labour market needs.

Given parental expectations, legislative frameworks and compliance regime, realigning the strategic focus of the school to develop skills for study, work life, along with applied learning, academic achievement and adolescent well-being can be a challenge. But schools that do so, will be sought after.

If we are to prepare students effectively for their future, students must be able to competently and responsibly use technology in school as much as they will be required to do so in their future work place. Digital technology platforms can not only aid development of key competencies for the 21st century, smart solutions can also help proactively identify students at risk of disengagement, track progress, measure outcomes and enhance aspirations, learning levels and decision making.

Q: How do you think ‘skill development’ could be achieved in a classroom with closed walls and with a focus on ‘completion of syllabus’? What kind of changes are required to the ‘classical classroom model?

Racquel: Developing skills and teaching traditional content are not mutually exclusive – does not require re-organising timetables, but broadening focus to embed these skills in all subjects or minimally through a structured, focused period – wellbeing, career and skill development — once a week from class 6 to 12, or ideally by making it part of the classroom or school culture.

Skills development starts with self-awareness and skills literacy — students must be able to identify their strengths, interests, talents, skills; have some understanding of the world of work, the transferable skills that are required across all occupations, and be aware of activities that they do at school and home that helps them develop these skills.

Skills can be developed through a number of approaches — simulation of real world scenarios in the class, project based learning to solve real problems in the community, setting and striving to achieve study, life and career goals, work exposure and mentoring are a few. Learning must be continuous, relevant and adaptive. Each student creates or is provided with multiple opportunities to understand, apply, recognise and practice using their skills in different scenarios, to the extent that it develops their mental set and structure and positively influences their attitude, behaviour and interaction with others. Students, must also have access to an eportfolio or a dynamic resume of all these skills developed with relevant examples or evidences.

Q: The development of conceptual models to imparting skill-based education would require several auxiliary support systems like textbooks with an entirely different frame of content delivery, pedagogical innovation, laboratory and experiential support?

Racquel: We need to understand what skills actually look like at different levels of competence during the adolescent phase, before deciding on the appropriate enabling systems, training and support for subject trained teachers and psychological counsellors. There are proven careers curriculum frameworks, with content, delivery and assessment models, pedagogy, technology and support systems now available in India, which can be adapted and adopted by schools to meet their needs.

Go Career powered by mykensho is one such comprehensive curriculum based solution focussing on adolescent well-being, core skills for study, work, life and holistic career development. It is mapped to the key competencies and performance indicators of the Indian Career Curriculum Framework, and is a well-structured technology enabled solution, facilitated by certified school teachers and counsellors, to enable every student thrive in their future.

The program consists of 15-20 class sessions, which can be seamlessly integrated as part of the existing value education or moral science or life skills or hobby period of the school combined with a personalised portal for students, parents and teachers and a mentor based training and certification of school teachers as facilitators.

Q: What is the current preparedness in schools and what kind of support systems do schools expect from the administrative agencies?

Racquel: We are going through change, unlike anything that has been witnessed before. But we seem blissfully unaware of the importance or the scale of this change and what it means for schools to prepare students for their future, in this landscape of constant change. Many still remain focused only on academic success, ranking as the hallmark of quality education and reputation.

While the government has launched several initiatives such as Digital India, Skill India, Make in India and Smart Cities, a strategic and co-ordinated approach to skills policies and implementation is needed, to improve outcomes and minimise skills mismatch.

A national HRD strategy which mandates career and skills education across all school curricula, and strengthened by multilevel governance and industry partnerships is critical.

Q: Classroom transaction would probably have to me more personalized, interactive and facilitative to empowerment of skills. It would indeed mean a new frame of mind from the teachers. How do you think teachers can be empowered and facilitated to discharge their work effectively in the changed scenario?

Racquel: We need to empower our teachers to identify and nurture potential of every child and develop the skills, knowledge, and attributes to help them craft and navigate multiple careers. Concurrently, parents must be empowered to understand this complex new work order and how to coach and guide their child. It’s a shared responsibility.

Go Career technology platform enables a personalised skills development and career journey for every student. It connects students with their parents and teachers and stimulates sequential evidence based activities, interactions, feedback. The smart goal setting tools and career assessments used, helps students discover their unique profile, and possibilities of where they can use their skills and attributes in the world of work.

The teachers are trained on positive education pedagogy to function as mentors and coach, empowered by this digital technology. This promotes stakeholder buy in and adoption, as it makes teaching more effective (by understanding learning styles, skill gaps), more engaging (eg.by understanding what subjects leads to) and helps develop better relationship with students (by understanding their motivators, interest, aspirations) whilst reducing their workload.

To increase teacher professionalism, performance motivation, develop growth mindset and the abilities to evaluate the impact of their teaching practice on student engagement and outcomes, the Indian Career Education and Development Council, a not-for-profit organisation set up with support from the Australia-India-Council, offers continuous professional development benchmarked to international standards.

To elicit performance, career progression, rewards and recognition can be linked to the skills agenda, student feedback and outcomes, rather than based on seniority or qualifications only.

Racquel Shroff is Co-founder at myKensho. They are represented in India by DS Digital, C-125A, Sector 2, Noida, www.dsdigital.in