Students must prepare for digital unknown

By Kauthar Gool
Johannesburg, 15 May 2018
Government needs to put more emphasis on promoting digital transformation in schools.
Government needs to put more emphasis on promoting digital transformation in schools.

Government needs to lead the charge in guiding education institutions to educate our youth for jobs that have not been invented yet.

This is according to Jonathan Houston, GM of strategic brand and communication company HKLM, speaking at the Brand Council of South Africa's Business Brand and Digital Transformation event last week.

"Government has a large role to play in promoting digital transformation, not only at an organisational level, but at schools and universities around SA as well.

"Students need to understand the applicability of digital, not just from an American organisational view; they need to understand this is also a South African problem and something that can influence and shape their careers."

In March, the African National Congress released a report that laid out its ICT resolutions, which included introducing smart and paperless schools throughout the country and providing WiFi accessibility. However, no timeline has been given as to when these projects will be implemented.

Last year, at Tlamatlama and Tshepisa Primary Schools in Gauteng's Tembisa township, the provincial education department unveiled e-learning-ready classrooms, introducing the use of smart devices for pupils to enhance their learning experience. The project was part of the Gauteng Department of Education's initiative to deliver modern facilities aimed at encouraging ICT adoption, skills development and improving the quality of education in townships. The initiative was driven by Gauteng MEC of education Panyaza Lesufi.

"Fundamentally, government needs to be partnering with education providers to make digital transformation part of their curriculum and from there it can grow to what is today seen in Tshwane with free WiFi being provided for public use," said Houston.

"With areas like the Internet of things, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and virtual reality constantly developing, the key is we have to transform and encourage our young ones to do the same."

According to a report by Deloitte, 76% of educators believe digital learning content will totally replace printed textbooks within the next 10 years, with 88% of parents and 84% of teachers saying they are very or somewhat interested in having more at-home digital content available to supplement what's being taught in school.

Companies like the Centre for Business Mathematics and Informatics (BMI), in partnership with SAS, are doing their part to encourage digital transformation at universities, as can be seen in their launching of a data science programme at the University of the Western Cape.

Professor Riaan de Jongh, director of the Centre for BMI, says the skills shortages in data science in SA can largely be attributed to schools needing to improve their implementation of science and mathematics in the classroom and encouraging students to go into those fields.

"Digital and data science are the jobs of the future and teachers need to encourage students to learn more about these fields and the opportunities that are available to them."