It wasn't too long ago when millennials started leading the way to innovation and youth entrepreneurship, but, now there is a new generation where the spotlight has shifted to - the Alpha generation.
Children from this generation are ones who are born after 2010 and the majority of them are offspring of the millennials, which means they were practically born and are being raised with smart devices in their hands - using technology comes as second nature to them.
As the Alphas grow, the technologies being developed in this Fourth Industrial Revolution is also advancing at a rapid pace, especially the use of artificial intelligence.
How well prepared are schools to teach the Alphas skills that will be required for future jobs that don't exist yet? Do schools even know which specific skills are essential for this generation?
Brendon Fulton, the principal of the Dubai British School, believes enterprise, entrepreneurship and problem solving will be some of the main skills taught to Alphas in classrooms.
"With increased access to information and knowledge, the impetus of education has been moving rapidly to a focus on how to manipulate and use information, knowledge and understanding, rather than merely dissemination. With increased globalisation, students are developing a greater empathy for worldly issues and so the future is crying out for problem solvers - people who are able to think outside of the box and are used to making mistakes, learning from them and adapting approaches," he said.
"Being as tech-savvy as they are, Generation Alpha children are able to access information with ease (certainly without the help of adults and teachers), so there will be a rapid shift in educational programmes to harness this ease-of-access and develop the skills of enterprise and entrepreneurship to enable students to add value to society."
Karan Deep, the innovation manager at GEMS Education, said skills such as critical thinking, collaboration across networks and leading by influence, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurship, effective written and oral communication, assessing and analysing information, curiosity and imagination are important skills that need to be taught to Alphas to prepare them for future jobs.
"The world is changing radically with rapid advances in technology. Widespread innovation is continuing to give birth to exciting new industries and the major drivers of transformation will have a significant impact on global interaction, job displacement and job creation. Over half of the jobs current middle school students will be doing in the future do not exist today. The skills taught in the classrooms to Generation Alpha will evolve towards inquiry and life skills," he said.
Deep said that GEMS Education offers the 'Global Futures Curriculum' in partnership with Singularity University, where they aim to teach pupils tools needed in the rapidly changing society
"More specifically, it will provide students with deep intellectual insight into a range of exponential technologies (artificial intelligence, digital biology and robotics etc), conceptual frameworks for discussing both the positive and potentially negative implications of these technologies.
"For the society as a whole and for them as individuals, a 'toolkit' that is centered around design and critical thinking will help make more informed career and life decisions in an era of exponential change," he said.
Tech-savviness must for next-generation teachers
Teachers need to become more tech-savvy in order to effectively teach children of the generation Alpha, a Dubai school principal has said.
Brendon Fulton, the principal of the Dubai British School, believes "good schools have already invested heavily" in ensuring teachers are ready to teach Alphas, however, there are other technologies that schools should also focus on.
Schools may have a general idea on which skills Alphas may need to prepare them for the workforce, however, teachers also need to be ready.
"Teachers certainly need to become more tech-savvy, especially on the use of mobile technologies. Schools generally should be looking to virtual and augmented reality technologies to help students develop experiential, rather than theory-based understanding," Fulton said.
"One key factor will be on wellbeing, and teachers will certainly need to develop skills in ensuring that this remains a focus of student's development. The continued proliferation of technology will undoubtedly put social skills at risk, and so schools and teachers should be strategically planning opportunities to develop social skills and shine a spotlight on the emotional and physical well-being of students in their care."
Karan Deep, the innovation manager at GEMS Education, said teachers need to trust technology.
"UAE is home to over 200 nationalities making up approximately 90 percent of its population. The rate of second or third generation students in the classrooms is increasing and it is important for teachers to be able to spread and inspire collaboration, communication and tolerance," he said.
"Teachers are mentors and guides to the learning and development of any student. In this regard, most teachers are already equipped to teach Generation Alpha students. They would, however, need to be aware and constantly adapt to the changing social norms and student expectations catalysed by lifestyle changes, information access and technology progress and infiltration.
"Technology is a friend and should not be met with hesitation or distrust. One area in which teachers need improvement is data interpretation, management and manipulation. When students work online, teachers receive data about student performance, which can then inform teachers of potential follow-up instruction."
20 years down the lane, Alphas will be the most educated generation
(Swapnaja Deshpande, School Counselor ASPAM Indian International School, Sharjah)
The Generation Alpha (children born since 2010) will be incomparable! With the rate of 2.5 million Alphas born every week, by 2025 two billion Alphas will be around the globe.
Being blessed to be born in the digital age, the Generation Alpha will shine as the most unique and dynamic generation. The Alphas will be most intensely educated and economically rich too.
As this new generation brings new rays of hope, there seem many challenges as well.
The first fundamental characteristic is their relationship with the Information Technology. They live an IT-enhanced life and digital device is an essential part of their lives.
Another characteristic of Generation Alpha is the assumption that their interaction will be simple and prompt. The generation will spend a longer period of time in education and other adult responsibilities as the beginning of the career, marriage and family will follow later.
The first Generation Alpha is now seven and has begun their formal schooling. And twenty years down the lane, they will be the most educated and tougher than any generations so far.
The goal of education should now shift from content-driven education to empowering students with strategies for "how to learn". They should be taught the system or structure to gain next levels of learning.
We will have to bring change in the institutional structure. The educators will have to progress to be a guide on the side and not the sage on the stage. These digital natives will demand mentors and not teachers.
Considering the challenge in holding the interest and engagement level of students in the higher education system, the faculties should focus on providing hands-on experience to teach the practical skills set. The Generation Alpha will look forward to specialty learning than a broad education pattern or a strict curriculum.
As there are two sides to every coin, the Generation Alpha may encounter with the difficulties of face-to-face contact, social interaction to name a few. As educators, the main goals in the education of the Generation Alpha should be on the well-being of mind, body and environment.
The significance of personal connections and social interactions should be emphasised. It should focus on openness to learning and re-learning and risk management.
The education system should lay emphasis on moral and value education. The major learning that will help Generation Alpha to succeed are adaptability, resilience and perseverance.
How well prepared are schools to teach the Alphas?
When it gets to making choices, Alphas won't be looking for a broad education anymore. They would also not follow any strict curriculum. Instead, they may be interested in a deeper learning of particular topic areas', that is much better than the present curriculum. As they are a generation born in front of screens and artificial intelligence, they will have better talent than the previous generations in developing literary skills, numeric skills and problem-solving.
Mohammed Thariq Reefath, Grade 6, Abu Dhabi Indian School-Al Wathba
In a few years, we are going to see many students with only gadgets rather than textbooks and notebooks. The pain of children who carry 5-6kg of schoolbags will go away in future and kids will use tablets weighing only 5-6g. In the UAE schools, such initiatives have already been taken in the form of BYOD (bring your own device). I hope, in future, all schools will start using gadgets and the education industry will totally be technologically accessed.
Karan Sinnamari, Our Own English High school Fujairah
The Generation Alpha would want a unique method of learning with lots of practical examples and experiments. The future education for them would be more virtual than real. Educationists should be well prepared to take this as a challenge because nothing normal is going to be enough for this generation. Teachers must remember that they are teaching a generation that is going to take over the world next.
Dhanvi Sayani, Grade-8, Gems Our Own English High School, Dubai
My brother is part of the Alpha generation and I can see the difference in the study between myself and my brother - books replaced by e-books and exams replaced by online exams. Born to digital technology, Alphas will be the wealthiest, the most intensely educated and most dynamic generation that human society has yet seen. Alphas will bring challenges and dangers as well as new hope. Alphas will be blessed in many ways, able to benefit from a world created by previous generations.
Hritika Tripathi, Delhi Private School, Sharjah
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