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Will we be up to the challenge?

Feb 18,2023 - Last updated at Feb 18,2023

A person following up closely on learning, at its various levels, cannot but notice a constant expansion in its horizons: philosophically, methodologically and dimensionally.

Such expansion opens up great opportunities for learners, naturally. But it also, simultaneously, poses a lot of challenges for those in charge of learning.

Not a long time ago, we were speaking of school and university learning in the context of their limited customary forms. Emphasis revolved, almost exclusively, around a face-to-face education that is teacher-centred, tied to a class or lecture room on school or college campus, confined within the school day, conducted on the basis of essentially one textbook which constituted the whole curriculum, and focused on memorising information.

The learner was predominantly a recipient, intent upon using the lower-level skills of rote-learning, recollection and understanding.

Slowly, such a rigid system begins to crack, and experts and scholars begin to speak of several other dimensions at once, both consecutively and in parallel; dimensions that are counter, correspondent, complementary, expansive, or totally new.

And all of a sudden, talk started to revolve around learner-centred teaching, the teacher as a facilitator or coach, and an active learner. Higher-level skills were prioritised, including ones which we have not heard about before, such as self-learning, learning management, and teamwork. The 4th Industrial Revolution skills dawned on us, with emphasis on technical, communication, design, emotional-intelligence, entrepreneurship and innovation skills.

Bloom’s skills taxonomy itself, which has been with us for decades, started to be revised, with innovation topping the pyramid instead of evaluation, and with a lot of digital skills being added.

Interest started to be focused, also, on the necessity of employing technology in education, with emphasis on online learning, with its three primary forms: the fully online, the blended and the hybrid; as a strategic future choice.

Then came the concept of education for all, so that education will no longer be confined to certain age groups, to men more than women, or to the privileged more than the poor. Education becomes literally for all, that is, regardless of age, gender, or economic and social status.

Then came lifelong learning, necessitating that individuals never stop learning at any stage in their lives, due to the rapid increase of knowledge itself and the constant change of work and life requirements.

Add to this the fact that many individuals will be switching jobs or careers several times during their lives, and therefore need to upgrade and diversify their knowledge, skills and qualifications.

And finally came the emphasis on flexible learning, a concept which combines all of the aforementioned and more, including a more flexible learning time, place, and pace; more flexible methods; more flexible admission requirements; and more flexible programs and qualifications, including micro-credentials.

All these developments, which come under the expansion of horizons of learning, and which have broken the limitations of age, time, place, and method contribute to the democratisation of education and open up unprecedented learning opportunities, in response to new developments.

What is of utmost importance for us is to be able to handle such developments and opportunities, making the best use of them for the welfare of individuals and the welfare of society as a whole.

Will we be up to the challenge?

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