Dec 2018

Teachers and the 4th Industrial Revolution

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At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, allow me to say: TEACHERS, BE WARNED!

There are many teachers who have not come to appreciate that the 4th Industrial Revolution is upon us and that many of their jobs are no longer safe. Not even Teacher Unions may be able to save some of these jobs. It will be a fierce struggle, but one that can only be won by technology. We’ve seen this trend in the mines, in manufacturing and in other sectors where people have simply been replaced by machines. It’s not a winnable battle, that much I can confirm. It’s no longer far-fetched and it moves ever so perilously close to the teaching profession. 

With the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics etc, the state may decide one day that they do not need so many teachers anymore, and cite performance of schools and budgetary constraints as major concerns. (Lest we forget, they did it with colleges of education). Just one “teacher”, a robot, can teach Mathematics or Science or any subject for that matter, to the entire country, all at once. Government just needs to install technology in these institutions, and that’s all it takes. For a moment, just think of this ONE lady who gives you directions wherever you go, to help you not to get lost (Navigator), and she knows our roads better than all of us. Only a few years ago, nobody could have imagined it. Therefore, teachers’ jobs will only remain for mop-ups and reinforcement, if at all. Now you don’t need every single teacher in the system to do that. Seeing that ‘robots’ are above average, it may call for only the above-average teachers to do that mop-up and reinforcement work, whatever that means, and there lies the potential danger ...

We need teachers to start developing themselves in earnest to be able to survive that era (not even to compete) or they may just be casualties or statistics in a war that only technology can win. Of course, profit motive more than efficiency has been the driving-force in the industries where this has started and government should not be compared with these industries. But in South Africa where almost every criticism is laid on the doorsteps of teachers, and where business influences politics in a massive way, it is naive not to think that our profession is languishing somewhere on the precipice. Only ‘cutting-edge’ teachers will stand a chance at survival. 

As the BRICS political parties meet in Pretoria from today under the theme,  “4th Industrial Revolution”, the same theme as the World Economic Forum recently, I’m persuaded to say: Teachers, Be warned! Improve yourselves! Becoming denialist won’t lessen your woes.

Let’s hear your thoughts below ...