Learning for the future

“According to ‘The Future of Jobs Report 2020’ published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), the rise of machines and automation would eliminate 85 million jobs by 2025. But, at the same time, the WEF expects 97 million new jobs to be created stressing the needs for ‘Reskilling’ and ‘Upskilling’ from employers to ensure staff are sufficiently equipped for future work. So, are we ready for the ‘new’ 97 million jobs?,” said UTAR Centre for Curriculum Development and Innovation Head Ts Dr Chen Kah Pin in a webinar titled “Are We Learning for the Future?”.

The webinar was organised by UTAR Centre for Corporate and Community Development (CCCD) in collaboration with Malaysia Mental Literacy Movement (MMLM) on 6 April 2021 via ZOOM and Facebook Live.

Dr Chen

“‘Are We Learning for the future?’ Speaking of ‘Future’, are we referring to the near future or very far future. What is the future that we are looking forward to? Are we preparing ourselves for our future and what future that we are referring to?” asked Dr Chen as he explained his presentation title.

The “Golden Circle”

While explaining the “Golden Circle” introduced by Simon Sinek, a TED talk speaker, he said, "According to Simon, he highlighted that we have to always start with asking ‘Why’ before we do anything. So the question is ‘why’ do we need to learn for the future? What is the purpose or intention for our learning? I hope throughout this one and a half hour sharing session, you will be able to figure out the answer. After figuring out what is our ‘why’, then we can proceed with ‘How’. ‘How’ are we going to learn to achieve our ‘why’? Lastly, we will identify ‘What’ are the things that we need to learn. ‘What’ are we going to learn is actually to be consistent to show ‘why’ we need to learn. If we do not know our ‘why’, we might not be able to fulfil our desire and purpose.”

Top 20 decreasing and increasing demand job roles

“According to WEF, the Top 20 decreasing demand job roles are routine jobs. Whereas, the increased demands for job roles are vice-versa. Non-routine jobs require thinking and problem solving; one has to figure out how to perform efficiently and cost-effectively,” said Dr Chen.

Sharing on how often people change jobs during a lifetime based on a survey conducted by USA, Australia and Canada, he said, “Changing from one job to another can be in the same industry or different. But, when we change one job to another within the same industry, are we ‘upskilling’ ourselves to be a better employee for the next company? If we intend to change to a different industry, are we ready for the changes in the industry; the job scope changes?”

“In 2004, former U.S Secretary of Education Richard Riley in his book titled ‘The Jobs Revolution: Changing how America Works’, mentioned that ‘The top 10 in-demand jobs in the future don’t exist today. We are currently preparing students for jobs that are yet to exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.’ So, we are preparing ourselves for jobs that are yet to exist. It is important for us to know why we need to learn because the future is unpredictable,” said Dr Chen.

He then continued, “Alvin Toffler, in his book ‘Future Shock’, said that ‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn’.”

Explaining the definition of unlearning, he said, “According to Professor Christopher Dede of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, ‘The professional development for transformative change is very challenging because participants not only must learn new skills, but also must ‘unlearn’ almost unconscious beliefs, assumptions, practices, and values about the nature of teaching, learning and schooling.’ So this is the difficulty when it comes to unlearning. But we definitely need to pick up the skills of unlearning because there are many new skills and knowledge that await us.”

“How many hours do we need to learn a new skill? There is no so-called answer. But there is a very famous rule, namely ‘10,000 hour rule’ by Malcolm Gladwell, the author of ‘Outliers: The Story of Success’. He popularises the idea that it requires 10,000 hours of concentrated practice to achieve a world-class level. But, according to Josh Kaufman, a TED talk speaker, 20 hours with full concentration is enough to actually pick up a skill,” said Dr Chen. He then explained the four steps of learning in 20 hours which were 1) deconstruct skill into subskills, 2) learn enough to self-correct, 3) remove barriers and 4) practice the most important subskills.

The “growth mindset”

He continued, “Learning is life-long learning. The terminology to reflect the life-long learning is called the ‘growth mindset’.” He then explained the differences between the “growth mindset” and “fixed mindset” and the six aspects of success factors to define success.

The six aspects of success factors

“Learning is no longer only by formal education. There are various kinds of channels to learn. When we know what is our ‘why’ to learn, we then decide our mode of learning. We need to be more open-minded and open-hearted to see what other channels that we can learn,” said Dr Chen. He then explained the three different modes of learning, namely formal education, informal education and non-formal education.

Meanwhile, he also shared some information presented by USM Vice Chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Asma Ismail, the keynote speaker of Flexible Education Seminar 2019 on “Imagineering” the education system, what are the value of a degree in today’s industry, the rise of “non-traditional” students, Malaysia national blueprint in education and the overall picture of flexible education. 

Explaining Peer-Oriented Learning, he shared the story of “The tortoise and the hare” to highlight the importance of “collaboration”; how learning to collaborate with others is also part of the learning process. He also explained the Scientific Method with Toddlers and the “3E (Experiment, Experience and Explore)”, one of the important concepts in educating the children. He also shared the Top 15 skills according to WEF which is important for the future.

Top 15 skills for 2025

“It is also very important to learn how to build our attitude to show our professionalism and ethics. It plays an important part in the holistic development,” said Dr Chen as he explained the holistic development of the human being.

Sharing on a book titled “Flow”, he said, “When we are in a situation of flow, it helps us to feel timelessness, helps us to think that everything is in auto-mode, helps us to stay focus and feel happiness.” He also explained how to achieve the “Flow” situation.

He advised, “Regardless of which stage we are in our lives, we still need to continue to learn. As one said, ‘It takes ten years to grow a tree, but a hundred years to nurture a person’.”

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