Are we Relying on a 20th Century Education for a 21st Century Economy?

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1000 global leaders attended the World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban, South Africa from 3-5 May 2017. Craig Hean, MD of JLL Sub-Saharan Africa, was one of them. He shares his take-outs from an inspiring agenda in the first of two personal insights.

How are we educating the workforce of the future? It’s an important question. And with a Dad who was an educator his entire career (and one of my greatest teachers), it’s something close to my heart.

Never have there been more people between the ages of 15 and 25 on the planet (United Nations). And by 2030, it is predicted some 25% of the global youth population will live in Africa. That means 1 in every four youths will be African.

It’s a staggering statistic. And one that should have us all determined to rethink the way we educate on the continent to give African youth the best chance to contribute to the digital economy.

There is a massive gap between formal sector and informal sector jobs in Africa, and entrepreneurial abilities have the potential to help bridge this gap between education and employment. But it’s a skill that needs to be taught.

Our education system hasn’t changed in 100 years. And rote learning no longer cuts it if we are to develop a pipeline of relevant future skills. The curriculum must change if we are to breed a generation of entrepreneurs equipped to take advantage of the current economy.

It’s time to learn digitally

Yes, one solution does lie in building schools and training educators to teach in a whole new way but this will take time and money. For our African youth to prosper it is a fundamental that we use technology to leapfrog the education system.  If we are going to have any success in closing the education gap, we must piggyback on internet-fuelled, online curriculums to short circuit the process. Extending internet connectivity to rural and remote communities across the continent is certainly an objective of the some of the world’s biggest tech companies. Google, through its Project Loon initiative (a network of stratospheric Wi-Fi balloons), is committed to rolling out free bandwidth in Africa, enabling some one million new online users by 2020. What this means for digital learning and its social impact is significant.

Collaborative action from corporates

We also need to reconsider if traditional tertiary education (those BComm and BAs) is the best way to teach employable skills. There are several public/private sector initiatives that promote education-to-employment programmes to bridge the unemployment/skills gap. For instance, an organisation partners with an educational institution to create a bespoke curriculum designed to train the specific skills the business requires. The system upskills, promotes local talent and provides employment. A win-win situation.

If we can train our young people correctly, we can equip them to find solutions to Africa’s challenges and go on to lead the world.

From a JLL perspective, thinking differently is part of our business DNA. The world is moving at such a pace and we need to adapt with it. Read our Top 10 global CRE trends for 2017 to learn more.

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