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Education for the 21st Century

  • 1.  Education for the 21st Century

    Posted 23 days ago

     A Futuristic Thoughts about: EDUCATION
    Where do We Go From Here?!
    By: Rabih Zayed, P. Eng.
    August 30, 2019


    A Futuristic Thoughts about: EDUCATION
    Where do We Go From Here?!
    By: Rabih Zayed, P. Eng.
    August 31, 2019

    The 21century will be dominated by the digital evolution/ revolution, automation and the Giga economy. Universities, Colleges and Training Centers are faced with challenges to meet and equip their graduates with the digital and technical competence and skill as well as the soft skills required for 21 century and beyond workforces.

    These thoughts were collected on my return trip on the bus from Montreal, Quebec to Halifax, Nova Scotia. On such trips with long hours of travelling, I usually do not sleep and resort to different means to pass the time; reading, watching movies, listening to radio, etc. Or you might say; I do not sleep, period!

    Today instead of keeping my thoughts to myself, I would like to share them with someone else; you! (Thank you, Madonna, for reminding me!).

    At present, the whole world is in the cusp of Industry 4.0; the digital evolution/ revolution; with many and wide aspects and perspectives. These may include but not conclusive: digital sensors and devices, Digital Networks Architecture and platforms, Internet of Things (IOT), Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT), smart factories for industries and manufacturing and Robots, 3D technology. All integrated and embedded with software and tools in the quest to manage the networks' infrastructure and availability, data infrastructure, flow, communications from the sensors to the network edges to the cloud and data fidelity and integrity. The software and the technological tools include software for: advanced analytics (AI & ML), Quality 4.0, safety and cyber security, Augmented Reality/ Virtual Reality (AR/ VR) and Digital Twins.

    Industry 4.0 quests and strategies are to realize reliability, availability, integrity, continentality, reduced costs and return on investments (ROIs).

    Industry 4.0 and the digital evolution/ revolution imposes a business model paradigm shift and will disrupt all aspects of life from smart factories, smart cities and all established infrastructure and institutions: health, transportation, energy & power, education, security and privacy. All these changes and disruption will surely have ethical, social and legal impact that we should from the start not to overlook, not to discuss but on the contrary they should and must be integrated and embedded by DESIGN in all aspects and perspectives of all the changes and disruption as a result of the society or an entity is adapting, adopting, implementing and deploying IOT & IIOT.

    The three elements of adopting and adapting Industry 4.0 are:

    • Process/ Operation
    • Technology
    • People (workforces)

    The workforces that are needed to manage the challenges and demands facing humanity, in the 21st century and beyond and strive to search, find out and explore reliable, efficient and effective, safe and secure solutions that provide a future that's full of hope and a future full of opportunities and better life for all in a global economy dominated by automation and Giga-economy should/ shall have the following:

    • Technical skills
    • Technological skills
    • Soft skills/ Transferable skills:
      1. Critical thinking
      2. Problem solving
    • Creativity
    1. Communication skills
    2. Resilience and Grit
    3. Emotional Intelligence
    • Entrepreneurial and Leadership skills.
    • Life-long learning attitude
    1. Multi-tasking and agility
    2. Result oriented.

    Building these skills and attributes is not an easy task but it is complex and require that educational institutes (Academia, Technical Colleges and Training Centers) transform their current programs in a strategic and an innovative vision to integrate and embed in their curriculums the required technological skills such as: Safety, Quality, Cyber Security, advanced Analytics (Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning) and Networks Communications, Infrastructure, Platforms and Communication Protocols. Universities and Colleges proved their abilities to deliver on technical skills, but should they also adapt alternative approaches to meet and compete as they have achieved in the past in building and preparing the workforce for the 21st century and beyond.

    I would like to report that the process of education and training transformation has already begun in well-known organizations, enterprise and academia. Many enterprises and organizations offer open, accessible, and free platforms. I am very hesitant to mention any names or establishments lest missing out on those that deserve to be mentioned. For those who are interested, it is very easy to find them in North America and Europe.


    As someone who has had one foot in Academia and another foot in Industry & Manufacturing; and for the last four years which were dedicated to accumulate as much as I could and gain knowledge and skills on Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT)( but of course there are much more still to learn and to know); I humbly would like to share with you my perspective on "Education for the 21st century and in particular with emphasis on Automation & the Giga- Economy. I also would like to write that some of these thoughts might be redundant for some, or repeated for some, and more importantly need a lot of refining and expansion to cover the gaps that were overlooked or not known to me to be included. My main goal is to open the discussion for all as an open platform that's strategic, innovative, and out of the box alternative approach to build a solid, democratic Global Education System to be adapted as ground to build on for different regions, countries and environment, simply put for everyone at each corner of the Globe.


    For me, any educational system is a "Triangle". At the base of the triangle is the "MANAGEMENT" and the other two sides of the triangle are "Professors & Supporting Staff" and  "STUDENTS".



    Professors & Supporting Staff


    Figure (1): The Educational System Triangle

    Next, I would like to reflect on and lay the ground from my perspectives on the roles and responsibilities and requirements of each side of the integrated and connected Educational Triangle System.

    • Students:

    Students of today and tomorrow are the workforce of the future and beyond. They should and have the passion and commitment to be:

    • Competitive and high GPA achievers
    • Passionate about their professions, and resilient and characterized with grit
    • Having the attitude to adapt, being agile and multitasking
    • Believe in life-long learning and continuous improvement


    • Professors and Supporting Staff:

    Professors and the supporting staff are the backbone of the education machines and they greatly depend on their management to facilitate their jobs. But at the mean time they have great responsibilities to provide what the students and the management and the society require and demand from them.

    From my perspective, Professors and the Supporting Staff should provide but not inclusive the following:

    • Provide inspiration and empowerment for the young and eager minds
    • Provide the technical and technological skills required for the 21st century and beyond; just a few examples:
      1. Problem solving
      2. Critical thinking
    • Teamwork
    1. Communication skills
    2. Emotional intelligence skills
    3. Experiential learning
      1. Co-op programs
      2. Work placement programs
      3. Apprenticeship program
      4. Summer training

    The above programs should be designed, coached and supervised and built as an on-job hands-on training programs with objectives and measured/tangible criteria and outcomes based on embedded and criteria designed assessment competence system.

    • Society/ community based practical project to solve or mitigate a challenge or a problem or a need which also instill in students sense of responsibility towards society and their communities and root in them sense of belonging; and their conscious and moral obligations to society.
    • Leadership and entrepreneurship skills
    1. Lead by example morally and ethically
    2. Professors and supporting staff must also be committed to life-long learning and professional development technically and technologically by acquiring the needed knowledge in rapidly advancement in science, engineering and technology.


                                                                       In a nutshell:     "Smart factories produce smart assets".



    In discussing Industry 4.0 and the digital evolution/revolution and their adaption and their successful deployment and implementation and the differentiation between the leaders, followers and lagers; all expert and mentors in the field agreed on the need of management change and culture changes.

    If I understood correctly the experts and my virtual mentors; they are talking about the following (blame me if I misunderstood!):

    • Management must sponsor the changes and champion the changes and to be streamed from the top to plant field-floor.
    • Management must provide the resources and funds from the planning to implementation and execution and what in between.
    • The implementation & deployment of the changes must start and streamed from the plant field-floor to management- upward.
    • Change the management silo hierarchal structure to horizontal hierarchal structure and empowerment of employees
    • Management must provide training, employees' skills updating/upgrading and continuous professional development.
    • Hiring Talents
    • Establishing cross functional and disciplinary teams of talents and experts with strategically aligned missions.

    Management, Professors and Supporting Staff must be committed to "EDUCATION & LEARNING FOR ALL and NURTURING and SUPPORT TALENTS" as a VISION.


    Learning and education is a duty on all of us. By education and learning humanity will continue its quest and journey for improvement and building a better present and better future. The quest and the journey just started with a rock and a stick as tools to establish what we have today which with grit, resilience and perseverance would lead to a better tomorrow and hopefully a better future.

    Having said that, the world today has become a complex place and full of challenges, complicated problems and hard and great demands but with planning and preparation and considering Deming Cycle and Learning & Education as a guide and as a strategy for equipping and planning a future which is full of opportunities and is better for all.

    In the very near future especially in the next five to ten years, the only constant is uncertainty and change. The challenge is how to keep up and stay ahead of the curve. Adding to that adopting to changes is very hard, hard endeavor to take on. Adding to the challenges and complexity and adopting of change is that the 21st century tools and technologies would come with technical and technological risks, social, eco-social, ethical impact and consequences; and legal consequences. Yes, the future is not for us to see or to know! even if we know; our knowledge would be still limited, and we would not be able to grasp all the impact and consequences and the unexpected.

    To leap into the future with confidence and faith, certain measures, guides and criteria and policies should be in place and decided upon collectively and above all with complete commitment to good governance and transparency.

    I would to end by quoting Ms. Christine Lagarde at one of Brookings Institute ' events; "Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant" and my quote! "Sun-lit Houses are the Least Visited by Doctors".

    Thank you for reading my article and thank you for continuing with the discussion about "Education for the Future" and I look forward to your feedback and comments.

    A Cobot Named: Rabih

    Rabih Zayed, P. Eng.

  • 2.  RE: Education for the 21st Century

    Posted 23 days ago
    Sir Zayed,

    I suggest before we get too far down the lane of educational supremacy, we should consider bringing back discipline to the school yard at the younger ages as was done in the past.  It seemed to work for my generation.  If we do not learn from history what do we really know.

    I like all your thoughts, but I believe professional skills are developed at a much younger stage in life whether constructive or destructive.  There seems to be more incidents of destructive actions as well as more incidents of constructive actions occurring throughout today's societies.

    Strong corrective action, teaching and development at the younger age will go far toward your final goals.  Have we lost our responsibility to slap a child's hand when reaching for the food on the counter prior to it being presented for a family gathering?

    Our teachers are now told they may not discipline students in a previously conventional way.  They are told if they send students to the counselor for discipline, they cannot manage their classroom.  Computers have become so integrated into the teaching systems, most teachers spend the majority of their time entering information into computers rather than teaching a class.  They are even asked to provide mental evaluations of each student when they are not trained to do so.

    I recall when it was not uncommon for students to drive their pickups into the school parking lot with a gun rack mounted in the back window and one or two rifles.  There were not any mass school murders.  A very strong system of discipline for elementary, middle, and high school was implemented.

    I would like to hear your thoughts concerning early discipline teachings of the younger society to prepare them for not only the technical disciplines awaiting, but also life in general.  As I read your proposal for the future generations, all I see is human robots programmed to do their "programming or will".

    Sir Zayed, I believe your quest is noble and well thought out for a technical pretrained mind.  But if we are to further pursue a better environment with technological advancement at all stages and all levels of the intellectual spectrum, my suggestion is it should begin with discipline at an early age of child development.

    Your comments are appreciated.  As well as any other contributors.

    Best regards

    Bushman, NOLA