The 1st of December marks the start of a quick countdown to the end of the year. For the Matrics of 2018, it also means the start of a new beginning. As Matric exam papers are being marked, many are waiting for the results to see where the next year will take them. While others already know where and what they will be studying, barring a big dip in their marks, many have no idea what they will do tomorrow. But the burning question is, are the learners of today prepared for what their future holds? Have they learnt the necessary skills to be prepared for the 4th Industrial revolution and the new skills and challenges the workplace would bring?

Key to the 4th Industrial Revolution is the reality that the youth of today will no longer start a career path and grow in one role. In fact, futurists predict that roles will change regularly. With automation and robotics redefining the need for humans in the workplace, individuals will have to adjust and find manners to be of value – in ways that machines cannot.

Graham Brown-Martin, the author of Learning {Re}imagined, explains that there are three key areas where humans are, and always will be, superior to machines. These key characteristics include creative endeavours, social interaction and physical dexterity & mobility. The question, therefore, is whether our schools are preparing our youth to apply these key characteristics in the workplace one day, along with the digital skills needed to face the future. This seems far removed from the rigid schooling system where the testing of knowledge is based on one-way learning and repetition.

According to Glenn Gillis, MD of Sea Monster, our schools have been using the right buzzwords when it comes to preparing South Africa for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  But in reality, where a large percentage of schools do not even have access to basic sanitary facilities, it is difficult to see how these schools will have the tools to achieve what is needed.

It is quite evident that great changes are needed to improve our Education system so that we can have learners who leave matric with the skills they need to face the future. Starting with bridging the gap between schools, but even more so changing perspectives on what teaching means.

As Mr Gillis explains, it is teaching and learning that is unique to humans too. It is the personal nature of the interaction between teacher and learner – where a teacher can speak to a learner’s talents, encourage his/her strengths and skills and adjust to a learner’s unique learning needs. In his book Future Shock (1970), Alvin Toffler states that, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”.

Perhaps what we need to understand most of the role our schools need to play in preparing learners for the future, is the importance of developing their emotional intelligence. Shaping their minds to understand how to acquire new skills and apply these skills, how to solve problems creatively and how to unlearn or relearn when they need to.