“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X
Recent years, and all the chaos they brought, have jolted us to the core of our existence in many ways. No matter what field we belonged to, we have all struggled with long screen hours, endless virtual meetings, and ad hoc strategies with the intent to navigate through the task at hand, as smoothly as possible, and achieve a forced sense of normalcy within it all.
Education, in my opinion, has witnessed one of the major shifts; a shift that will likely reposition the whole educational system, with technology, expectedly yet more than ever; at the very core of it all.
In a recent conversation with Hashem Al-Ghaili, a renowned science communicator and filmmaker, I had the pleasure of discussing how technology will play a fundamental role in the future of education.
Q. Considering the shift the educational model has been going through in the past years, what would an ideal future for education look like post-pandemic?
A. I think the pandemic has taught us the importance of distance education and online learning. This is a big shift from the traditional way of learning. The pandemic certainly forced universities and schools to test a new approach to deliver classes, which worked because it’s cost-efficient for both the students and the institution. Given that online education received a huge boost in funding during the pandemic and was widely accepted by most students and teachers, we’re going to see new technologies being adopted to support this process. For example, virtual reality and augmented reality will be heavily integrated into online education. And with the extensive talk about the metaverse, which is a virtual world that replicates reality, I would expect many schools and universities to become part of this virtual experience. Students will be able to interact with each other in a virtual setting while still being at home wearing their VR headsets. The future of education is also personalized, which means each student will receive a learning experience tailored to their personal needs. This will be achieved using Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, which can study the behavior of students and provide them materials and subjects that match their interests.
Q. What do you believe would the greatest challenges facing education in that near future be?
A. The biggest challenge is limited access to technology. As you can see, we’re talking about new technologies that require extensive hardware and software development. Not all nations are equipped with the infrastructure to build those. When we talk about the future of education, we’re talking about VR headsets, AR headsets, Artificial Intelligence systems, etc. These tools can be expensive to some people, which means they will remain stuck with the traditional methods of teaching for quite some time until these tools become affordable to them.
Q. According to a recent article in The Guardian, more than 3 billion people, i.e., 37% of the world population, has never used the internet, is it possible to think of a better world with such inequity? How can we make education and technology accessible to everyone?
A. Access to internet is an essential part of the educational process in the future. Luckily, the internet is slowly making its way into every home. For example, in my country, Yemen, the internet was a luxury commodity. Now, almost everyone has access to it which is encouraging. There are many companies that are working on providing affordable internet access using satellites, which will cover almost every corner of the world. Eventually, it will become cheap enough for everyone to use.
As for the issue of inequity and lack of accessibility to technology in some nations, it’s the responsibility of developed nations to assist developing and underdeveloped ones to achieve equilibrium in terms of access to technology. Some of the ways to do this include sharing human resources with each other to build the infrastructure necessary to support the educational process. Another way involves recycling electronic waste and repurposing it, to build new tools and gadgets that can be used by those who live in developing nations. Laptops, smartphones, computers, etc. Over 50 million metric tons of e-waste is thrown away worldwide every year. This waste can be recycled and given another life and a noble purpose. These steps will ensure that technology is provided equally, at least until developing and underdeveloped nations become self-sufficient.
It is a bright future for sure, yet not without challenges in the foreseen future, where the biggest of all will be creating equal opportunities for optimum education for the millions of children living in dire poverty.