The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Technical Education

by Uwe Wieckenberg


The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Technical Education

Uwe Wieckenberg

We are on the threshold of a technological revolution that very likely will fundamentally change the way we live, work and interact. In its scope and complexity, this transformation will be an unprecedented experience.

The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanise production. In the second revolution it was electricity that made mass production possible. The third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now the Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterised by the fusion of technologies, that is, the blurring of boundaries between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

The present speed of the technological development has never been achieved before. Compared to previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is developing exponentially.

We are already surrounded by artificial intelligence - from self-driving cars and drones that steer themselves, to virtual assistants and software that can translate or invest. The so-called Artificial Intelligence (AI) or better “Machine Learning” has made impressive progress in recent years, supported by the exponential growth of computer capacity and the availability of huge amounts of data. The importance of software becomes more and more important.

Naturally, revolutions are dynamic and cannot be planned but they exert a very great pressure to change economic and social conditions and of course also education.

How will this revolution change our education and, above all, how must we shape education to prepare the young generation for a future that is largely uncertain and unknown? An important feature of digitalisation as part of this revolution is the constant availability of data. All knowledge tends to be available at all times and only a mouse click away. How does the “old” school, which is based exclu­si­vely on the imparting of knowledge by teachers, find itself in this scenario? Not at all, since knowledge no longer has to be taught exclusively by teachers.

In educational institutions we have relied so far on curricula. These curricula define what students need to learn in order to achieve a certain educational goal. It is in the nature of things that curricula can only present what we already know, so what is secured. Curricula are therefore a “look back”. In actual fact, we prepare students for what has gained validity in the past, but we do hardly prepare them for the future.

So how can we look ahead in education and at the same time not neglect the necessary knowledge and experiences we have gained? In the following the basics of how the Elsewedy Technical Academy (STA) in Egypt is trying to deal with this problem is outlined.

STA is a corporate technical secondary school working in the field of formal education within the Egyptian dual system and applying German standards of technical education and training. The essential point that makes the difference to traditional teaching in a vocational school is the fact that theoretical knowledge taught in school is applied through practical training in the real working situation of companies.

The STA meets the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution in two ways:

On the one hand, students are accustomed to digital content and the increasing use of computers in the classroom and at work. Here, school books are gradually being replaced by digital copies, e.g. on tablet computers. In the beginning this is of course unusual for both teachers and students. But this changes over time. In a second step multimedia content (textual, auditory, visual) is integrated into the teaching and learning process. Worksheets provided by the teacher can be filled by students and send back to the teacher for evaluation during the lesson. Many other applications are conceivable. The effect is a functional im­prove­ment of teaching which usually is not possible with purely analogous work material (paper and pencil).

On the other hand, STA is increasingly focusing on the promotion of key competencies. The faster technological development progresses, the more students need to be enabled to continue their edu­cation on a continuous and independent basis after graduation, since the duration of the training cannot be eztended despite the growing number of learning contents. Moreover, key competences become important whenever less repetitive work processes have to be carried out, which is increasingly the case for our highly skilled graduates.

We must therefore integrate the new information and communication technologies into teaching, with a focus on key competences, as we are on the threshold of a new form of technical education that is driven much more by technology than before. In order not to fall behind and to remain at the forefront of technical education in Egypt, the STA is working with potent partners, such as HUAWEI, in order to be able to offer future-oriented technical education at the level of the times.