Don’t raise your eyebrows yet! This scenario will be with us by 2020.

How many drone traffic managers do we have? Can we have more corporate disruptors? Are our microbial balancers on the job to solve major health problems? Can we have more urban shepherds, please? Unimaginable jobs and job descriptions that will be with us within the next few years.

New approaches

“How do we create more jobs by 2030 not knowing which ones and sectors needing them?” was a question posed to a group of us by the Prime Minister of Malaysia in April 2017 during his State visit to India. He was presiding over the Global Science Innovation Advisory Council.

With two Nobel Laureates and CEOs of major companies as a part of the Council, we scrambled to answer him with two challenges — how to foresee employment generation and ready teachers and mentors who can train youngsters to take up these jobs.

India will fail to secure any of the above jobs given our current trends of teaching, innovations and job creation. The reason, simply put, is we will take another decade to get ready if we act now!

The information technology service sector churned out great opportunities to young India, irrespective of their academic backgrounds. Bankers, management specialists, science graduates, all thronged the portals of the companies ensuring their bank balances are secure and throwing away the very premise of learning for life to degrees for jobs. Skill development and self-learning are great ideas on paper where we are rolling out thousands of ‘skilled’ people who can earn just above the Indian average poverty line!

We need four fundamental changes in the way we prepare our youngsters to face the future.

First, our streams of education should change. We can no longer train lawyers who do not understand science and logic, we cannot award degrees to architects who cannot imagine Nature as a laboratory for design, we cannot train scientists who cannot communicate, we cannot afford to license doctors who do not see the relevance of integrative health care. We need inter-disciplinary approaches in education. But, our current regulatory systems do not provide this space though a large number of private universities are attempting to play the game.

Second, a lot is said about experiential learning. But we have not ensured that our teachers and research guides un-learn and re-learn how to impart such experiences. Mostly, these approaches stop at the level of advertisements. We need a system-wide change in the way we train our teachers.

Third, self-learning and peer-learning has to be promoted. Examination based education will compromise our abilities to design jobs for the future. This needs support from parents, teachers (read mentors), prospective employers and policymakers.

Finally, we need education and training that responds to societal needs and challenges. If artificial intelligence is to rule the science and technology world in the next few decades, we cannot be training students in age-old subjects.

If we need to prepare our younger generation for the future, the change should begin with us — educators — who need to think ahead of our times. I am sure Malaysia will be prepared for the challenge, but are we?

The writer is Vice Chancellor of TransDisciplinary University, Bengaluru. Views are personal