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The Future of Higher Education and Employment: A Study in Unpredictability

Posted on October 06, 2018 by Saurav Jain  | Blog | Events

I had the privilege to sit in the same room as Mr. Francisco Marmolejo, the Global Leader of Tertiary Education (World Bank) as did many of my batch mates, here at ISBF. Anything I say would not be enough to capture the essence of this man, who has seen it all. From, countries being created on the map, and becoming non-existent to travelling to more than 80 countries in the world, understanding and analysing the peculiarities of a small tribal school that teaches a Master’s in Computer Science, to critically navigating what the future of higher education and employment looks like, he’s had quite a ride, really.

The lecture started with a felicitation of honour by Miss Atika- Assistant Professor, Economics at ISBF, in the form of a gift, a token of appreciation for Mr. Marmolejo who had to take out time from his busy schedules, to take the students on this new and exciting journey of the future of higher education.

Mr. Marmolejo really spoke to the Economics student in me, as he doled out statistics of the predicted future economic returns upon investing time and money into elementary education and higher education, saying that every year in elementary education boosted future revenue by 10% while higher education boosted revenue by 20%.

A staggering truth brought forward was that only 1% of the global population has access to higher education. Under that very small umbrella, within India, only a third of college-age students in India have access to higher education, which speaks wonders about the graveness of the situation.

Therefore, the onus is on each one of us young minds to be a good citizen, an individual who cares about others who didn't have the privilege of higher education and to be successful professionals in fields that suit our interest.

Mr. Marmolejo shed some light on how China despite being the largest system of higher education (with over 3000 institutions), has lesser higher education institutions than India (more than 42000) vitally characterising this discrepancy, in terms of how India has gone right with scaling education to the masses but failed at creating skillsets that are relevant to the real world, courtesy: outdated and theoretical syllabi and teaching methods. It only became clear that employability is a huge concern as Indian students are not fit for jobs in the real world.

It is also to be understood that educational institutions no longer must hold higher authority over incoming students or professionals of society, they must serve the purpose of bending in the way society embraces change, and envelop its stakeholders, rather than create rules or standards by which society must function.

 He tirelessly spoke about how higher education is the biggest enabler in a global economy that is constantly changing, driven by technologies that fundamentally change how we channelise our energies into work, and the times we live in break or mould in a big way, the traditional professions undertaken by humanity. Knowledge is thus, the biggest competitive advantage, to remain relevant and purposeful in this plethora of change.

He gave various real-world examples like tissue engineering, a cross-skill profession involving the knowledge of both engineering and medicine, or data mining, an AI-based profession, a machine-based job, to autonomously produce whole research papers in various fields by just feeding data into an IT system.

It is quite obvious that any society that wants to achieve higher productivity, needs to have a highly skilled workforce. But good workers need good jobs. Creating new jobs is difficult and unsettling, traditionally, as only certain types of industries and goods and services are produced and sold in different markets. What exists, therefore, is a talent mismatch, which misaligns the global markets.

Showing how this mismatch is being bridged by some economies, Mr. Marmolejo gave the example of Italy, where the government created a database of the skillsets of employable citizens, readily accessible to employers, who could now get the right skill set for the right job and boost employment rate.

The very humane and rooted side of Mr. Marmolejo was reflected when he spoke of how you constantly need to reinvent ‘you’, to be representative of ‘more’, whether it may be working with diverse cultures and sexualities, or being more grateful and necessitating when dealing with people who aren’t as privileged as you are.

A very intellectual insight was shared by Amrit, a fellow attendee, as he recognised that there is no lack of information available in the public domain today, and what the students of today need is a pocket-able skill to be able to sift and sieve information, to value knowledge.

Mr. Marmolejo acknowledged the fact that the world is at the cusp of a revolution, and that this indeed is a really fascinating time to exist and grow, and was struck by the fact that most of us couldn’t imagine what the future of jobs and education will look like.

 

With an innate satisfaction of having learnt something of value, that affects all of us students, wherever we go next, may it be to LSEs of the world for higher education, or the Courseras for hands-on skillset learning or to Goldman Sachs of the world to disrupt investment banking itself, the session left us empowered and motivated for the challenges of an ever-changing world, and hopeful of pushing the boundaries wherever we’re at.

- Saurav Jain, BSc (Hons) Economics & Finance at ISBF, New Delhi

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