As we wrote earlier, this week PCDN is fortunate to be attending and exhibiting at the 10th Annual Global Youth Economic Opportunities Summit organized by Making Cents International.
The first plenary today featured four wonderful thought leaders who began to address the question: The Next Decade of Youth Development: What Will it take to Achieve Results and Scale.
The speakers included:
Monica Das Gupta, Professor of Sociology, University of Maryland
Anthony Salcito, Vice President Worldwide Education, Microsoft
Sara Sengezner, Senior Director, Youth and Economic Empowerment, Plan International USA
Jordan Shapiro, Forbes Columnist and Associate Director for Digital Innovation, College of Liberal Arts, Temple University
It is beyond the scope of one blog to describe the full session but instead I will highlight some key points that struck me as most relevant as a social entrepreneur, peacebuilder and parent.
Jordan opened the session with a talk reminding us that globalization and encountering “others” is not a new phenomena. He mentioned how for the ancient Greeks their tech innovation was the boat and how they engaged in widespread trade and interaction with different cultures. Even in Ancient Greece, this interaction with others, produced many new innovations, technologies, allowed trade and exchange, new understanding of the world. At the same time some found this interaction to be frightening and sought to use a more xenophobic response.
He stressed how with the many challenges we face today with globalization, migration, economic challenges, we can learn a lot from how other cultures have managed and responded to similar experiences. One of his central points is that education needs to go beyond content to helping people understand how to make and shape meaning in a complex world using the tools of our age.
He also cautioned if we don’t improve our system of training the next generation of people to thrive in the digital age with the tools, habits, ideas and mindset of the future that we will risk having an era of digital colonialism arise that will leave many people behind.
The key point to Monica’s talk is that there are going to be tremendous demographic changes in the next generation. In particular the youth population of sub-Sarahan Africa will radically increase (projected to double) and be the largest in the world based on demographic forecasts. This will led to a set of challenges that youth will likely have a harder time with pursuing livelihoods (whether in rural or urban areas) and that a greater burden will fall on youth to take care of an aging population.
Anthony from Microsoft talked about his 20 years of work at the intersection of education and technology. He cautioned that many ministers and school officials often see tech as the magic solution to transform their education systems. Some ministers seek his assistance on buying computers for all their schools as the solution, but he tells them this will not solve the educational challenges they face without working on transforming the larger system, empowering teachers and students.
A key point he emphasized is education in the 21st century needs to move away from a focus on only content based learning (as in the Internet age there is more content than ever and students can learn a great deal on their own) to focus on skills and competency based education. A central part of this needs to be empowering ands inspiring youth so they can see themselves in any career position regardless of their gender, economic class, or identity. He also stressed that students need to learn about entrepreneurship, problem solving, and many other skills that aren’t being taught in content based systems. Furthermore, that learning needs to challenge students but also be relevant to their lives.
Sara highlighted that the data shows that worldwide youth unemployment hasn’t improved much in 20 years (only been reduced by .05%) and that among youth who are employed nearly 1/3 still are living at the poverty line.
Her keey takeaways, is that we need to focus on skills building, in particular the soft skills of working with others, teamwork, negotiation, and of course combine this with math and other technical subjects. She stressed that we don’t know what the jobs in 10 years will look like in the age of increasing automation but a skills focus is critical.
In the discussion section of the panel, the main points discussed that the education system needs to move to skills competency based learning. In a world where content is over abudant we need to switch to a skills focus and make learning relevant to the challenges that students and societies face. Teachers and students also need to be empowered, feel appreciated and be able to vision and see themselves in any position.
Antony ended the panel in discussing that teachers also need to be celebrated and regoznied. He discussed Microsoft’s experience training over 12,000,000 teachers over the past decade. In the age of technology, if a teacher is told or sees students are learning without them, many feel threatened and say oh no. But if teachers can see that they can play an expanded role in competency based skills learning beyond just content, helping students apply knowledge to read world problems, then the possibilities are nearly endless and teachers become excited.