It has been estimated that globally 50% of jobs currently in existence will not exist by 2030 and our children are not protected from this reality. The global transformation currently underway, called the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), entails the convergence of all digital, physical and biological technologies. It is predicted, that by 2020, 4IR will have brought us advances in robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, genetic engineering and virtual reality.

However, South Africa is already struggling to employ its youth. The country registered an unemployment rate of 29.1% in the fourth quarter of 2019 which is staggeringly high. The question is, can South Africa adapt quickly enough to adequately equip its young people with the skills required by 4IR?

The labour market of the future will require new skills including digital fluency, creative thinking, problem solving, collaboration, empathy and adaptability. Traditional thinking was that the more specialised a person became, the more economically valuable they would be. However, 4IR requires a person to be interdisciplinary – to have sufficient knowledge in other fields outside of their area of specialisation.

Considering that information and communications technologies is the fastest growing industry in South Africa, and that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics sectors are also achieving similar growth, skills in robotics and coding will future-proof our learners and equip them for the ‘jobs of the future’.

According to the World Economic Forum, the top ten emerging jobs are:

  1. Data analysts and scientists;
  2. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning specialists;
  3. General and operations managers;
  4. Software developers and analysts;
  5. Sales and marketing specialists;
  6. Big data specialists;
  7. Digital transformation specialists;
  8. New technology specialists;
  9. Organisational development specialists;
  10. Information technology services

The 4IR is no longer coming, it is upon us. The best we can do as parents, and educators, is to ensure that our students have the necessary skills for future job and labour markets, and have the ability to navigate the uncertain environment of a technology-driven economy. Our education system simply has to adapt, otherwise our children will be left behind.

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Parents play a critical role in providing learning opportunities at home and in linking what children learn at school with what happens elsewhere. The term ‘academic socialisation’ refers to certain kinds of parental behaviours which have a positive impact on learning and academic outcomes. When parents reinforce learning at home by incorporating learned skills into everyday routines and activities, they become a critical factor in their child’s overall learning and education. Research has found that learning becomes more meaningful when the lessons are applied to real-life situations; it has been suggested that the influence of parents on learner achievement is 60-80%, while school accounts for 20-40% per cent.

In particular, parents can have a significant impact on three areas of a child’s learning:

  • Working memory: which refers to short-term memory. Children rely on both incoming information and information stored in their working memory to complete an activity. If they have a weak working memory, they will struggle to juggle both;
  • Response inhibition: this refers to a child’s ability to postpone, withhold, or stop inappropriate behaviour;
  • Cognitive flexibility: is a child’s ability to shift their attention as the demands of the environment or the task change.

In developing working memory, parents can assist their children to remember homework assignment due dates by devising a plan to complete these assignments. It is also beneficial for parents to encourage their child to discuss previous lessons or assignments, and ways in which to apply them in different contexts. Response inhibition on the other hand can be strengthened when parents help their children avoid distraction when doing assignments, and by encouraging them not to abandon tasks if they are struggling. Lastly, cognitive flexibility can be improved when parents help their children recognise when their homework or lesson plan needs to change due to external circumstances, or a child’s mood or emotional state.

Parents also have an important role to play in monitoring and guiding their child’s schooling, this will also provide opportunities for parents to assist their child in setting goals and creating plans of action to meet these goals which in turn develop a child’s organisational skills.

These steps cannot be mastered overnight, but through practice, parents not only enhance the quality of their child’s learning experiences, but also develop a stronger bond with their children.

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Every parent dreams of having a happy, resilient child who can navigate through life and remain positive and focused. We cannot make life easier for our children but we can give them the tools to thrive. Think Digital offers a Mind Power for Kids course which equips children (ages 6 – 12) with the knowledge of how their mind works and how they can use this knowledge to live the life they have dreamed of.

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The school placement chaos at the beginning of this year highlighted a very scary reality – we simply do not have enough good schools in Gauteng, South Africa.

A number of schools faced a very high enrolment demand as parents clamoured to ensure their children have a place in a school of excellence, while many schools, particularly in townships, were virtually empty. The result is that oversubscribed schools are forced to make use of mobile classrooms which are barely conducive to quality teaching and learning. These schools’ resources become constrained, with the average number of learners reaching 60 per class. This puts additional pressure on our teachers, and makes it a near impossibility that our students will be provided with the strong foothold they so desperately need if they are to succeed in high school and beyond.

It has been predicted that by 2020, Gauteng will still be short of 1373 classrooms at existing schools. This means that even at the accepted ration of 40 pupils per class‚ almost 55 000 pupils will be in over-crowded classrooms in three years.

At the same time, it’s calculated that 10% of the country’s teachers are absent from school each day, while a Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) found that 79% of South African Grade 6 maths teachers were classified as having content knowledge levels below the level at which they were teaching. This problem is compounded by a lack of support for teachers and insufficient professional development. In addition, the Centre for Development and Enterprise predicted that South Africa would need to have 456 000 teachers by 2025 to offer our children a quality education, this is 46 000 more than we currently have, and between 18 000 and 22 000 teachers leave the profession every year.

So as parents, how do we deal with high student ratios; a lack of resources; a shortage of qualified teachers in subjects like mathematics and physical sciences; a lack of discipline in our classrooms that disrupts teaching and learning, and absenteeism of teachers who are burnt out trying to cope with big classes and poor learner behaviour?

We simply have to think beyond traditional teaching and learning methods. It is time to consider virtual schools as a viable option for ensuring our children receive the best education possible, and are equipped with the skills needed for the future of work in this country.

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