During the modern mass-production era, the sustained focus of education to be has always been on massification of production of goods and services. And in line with this, mass-education has emerged as the go of the day. Like all other factors of production, labor has been considered as an object input in the process of production. So, in the system of education, the students who would be the potential input as labor in the process of production after their education are generally objectified. The relationship between teachers and students that grows in education system is one of subject to object suited for subsequent smooth fit in the hierarchic organization and management for mass production.
Although in the present day, labor gets the tag of human resource, but in essence it is an object with "the possessive impulses" devoid of creativity and urge to be creator to contribute to the fulfillment of human dreams. Humans are born free to be creative and responsible, but the prevailing education system produces fossils of humans as objects of production and accelerated productivity. The more days the enrolled students pass through the levels of primary, secondary and beyond, they achieve perfection to be dry objects. This situation has been more rampant in peripheral countries which were once subjected to dehumanization by foreign rule and also by their home despots.
Ignorance keeps people in benighted prison and education in a broader sense is the instrument to set them free and equip them with knowledge, skill, values, morale, motivation, etc. in their journey of life and living. It seems that demands of generations are met by the types, contents and methods of education in the society. Humanity has witnessed the overwhelming prevalence of spiritual and religious education in the agricultural era for a stable longer time. A shift of education to more secular one with dominance of science and technology occurred during the first industrial revolution in England from the second half of eighteenth century to first half of nineteenth century.
Beginning from first industrial revolution through second one, economics of mass-production, mass-consumption and their ultimate equilibrium grew to its peak due to the influence of earlier growth centric development vision in the West. It has been seen that the generations during the period had mass-education particularly from primary to secondary levels. Factory workers with little and no formal mass-education applied their brawn power under the direction of their supervisor-managers equipped more with their positional power derived from formal education.
The mass-education at schools helped the proletariat in the factories and fields to give their labor power at a wage to spill over the purses of the owners. The prevailing factorial conditions were unhealthy coupled with domination, exploitation, suppression and oppression by the owners and their managers. In such situation the Communist Manifesto by written by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels appealed to the Proletariat to liberate them by breaking their chains. They were told that they had nothing to lose but their chains by overthrowing the owners of capital.
The education has been undergoing the process of change and growing matching the requirements of production, consumption and demand of society as well as environment. In the West, the market competition demands more of cognitive power than the power of brawn of the Proletariat during the days of first and second industrial revolutions. Subsequent intense massification during the third industrial revolution facilitated by information and communication technology (ICT) and concurrent environmental degradation has created a demanding situation for environmental as well as social sustainability and also disruptive innovations in market.
During the fag-end of twentieth century, Alvin Toffler, a future sociologist, said about the replacement of the Proletariat by the 'Cognitariat' in the arena of demassified production. The Cognitariats, the term coined by him, are the workpeople using more cognitive power in a work-situation where the newer way of manufacture would be viewed as 'mentifacture'. They have to use more cognitive power sharpened by a matching education necessary for creativity and innovations for demassified production for their survival in the market.
In the present twenty-first century, there has been growing awareness of and demand for just society everywhere and also for necessary ecological balance and environmental sustainability. In such a situation, zero-emission based 'mentifacture' would aim at using new sources of renewable energy as input in the process of 'mentifacture'. Products from such process would be capable of offering more out of less and would help lower waste generation within the capacities of sinks. In the spaceship earth, its inmates-smart people-have to thrive collectively for safe navigation of the ship.
So, the education has to offer the new generations with knowledge, skills, values, attitude and worldview in response to emerging new demand. The spaceship earth and its inmates have to discard the obsolete education failing to match with the newly emerging demand. Inventions and disruptive innovations in areas like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), cloud computing, block chain, robotics, holography, nanotechnology, biotechnology, genetic engineering and so on are all coming to help the new generations to cope with the emerging challenging demands.
Generation Alpha and their preceding cohort gen- zoomers are emerging as the main influential component in the composition of generations in the early twenty-first century. The zoomers are the generation who were born from mid-late 1990 to early 2010 and Alphas are generation born from 2010 to the mid-2020s as the starting birth years. They are smart ones finding savvy and used to information and communication technology (ICT). Their work ethics departs from the earlier harder ones and prone to embrace changes in their environment. Innovations and disruptive changes generally are not seriously shocking to them.
Education system in North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and other newly developed countries has been changing to meet the needs of main influential generations of 21st century. They are supported by their schools, community and government to grow for facing the challenges arising out of innovations and disruptive changes in the environment. They are now ahead of their counterparts in the peripheral countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. There has been a great divide in education globally and also national intra-countries. The earlier digital divide has further been widened due to accelerated changes causing waves of disruptive innovations and technology.
Given the prevailing global situation in education, Bangladesh still belongs to the category of lagging behind in the periphery and has made quantitative expansion, particularly mass primary education. There has been digital divide in Bangladesh since the early days of digitalization. The generation Alpha, particularly from the poor, marginalized and disadvantaged families has been rendered to be away from the mainstream and deprived from even mass education for their integration in the mainstream, let alone the quality education to meet the challenges of the changing environment and creative development.
Challenges in education as a whole in Bangladesh are gigantic and demand both analytical and critical thinking. Government as well as non-government organizations (NGOs) along with any other supportive individuals and institutions contribute to advancement in this regard. It is heartening to hear that education ministry and its related agencies are going to overhaul the system in terms of curriculum, approach and methods of education and related other things in the light of fourth industrial revolution. It is hoped that NGOs like Brac, CDIP, PKSF-partnered NGO-MFIs and private sector institutions will not lag behind.
The author is a columnist and vice-chairman of CDIP.
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