The human, says Thomas Friedman, three-time Pulitzer prize winner and the author of Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, has the ability to adapt too. He says, “We go to school for twelve or more years during our childhoods and early adulthoods, and then we’re done. But when the pace of change gets this fast, the only way to retain a lifelong working capacity is to engage in lifelong learning.”
Today our parents and grandparents have successfully migrated from basic phones to smartphones. Apart from the aspiration to be connected with the family, they are also driven by the changing needs of our times. They use Facebook and Snapchat too.
If they can do it, why can’t we? So how do we see our children making this transition knowing very well that the world is changing and living with machines is not a distant reality? Do we want them to make the change because there is no choice or because as parents we made the choice?
Changing Job Scenario
In any generation irrespective of the drivers of the economy, one glaring indicator of the changing times are jobs. It’s not too difficult to search for online job postings to know the signs of what’s going to come. There is a paradigm shift in what the markets are looking for and what they are looking for is dominated by the needs of the machine era.
Whether you are a doctor, engineer, lawyer, scientist or an entrepreneur, ability to adapt to new technology is a must. Companies are talking of upskilling their employees to bridge the gap between the old skills and the new skills.
The skills we have acquired through the K-12 education system is what our children are also going through but maybe with slight modifications. So, parents need to adopt a much smarter approach with multiple dimensions to look at their children’s skills and instill a deeper thoughtprocess from within the four walls of the house, as education begins at home first, with the parents. We will leave the schools out since they are beyond our sphere of influence.
The K-12 education system did very well to see us through this far but for sure lacks the momentum to push forward into the machine era. Re-enforcing the theory learnt in school and with very little emphasis at home on practical aspects of applying what the children learnt has to be dealt with an iron fist.
The focus should be more on applying what they learnt. Memorising is out of the window. By re-directing the efforts we are definitely giving the children enough choice of skills to help themselves start their journey with confidence.
We will share the protocol that most parents follow to review their child’s progress. Monitoring the homework, helping them prepare for exams (school and competitive), reviewing report card and attending the parent-teacher meeting to know more details of the child from the teacher. By doing so are the parents overlooking the markers that define the child. Sorry to say but in a hurry to be transactional are parents losing the strategic plot?
The most important tool in the parent’s arsenal that is never disclosed or displayed but is put to use with remarkable efficiency is the method of comparison with data from a small universe of their friend’s kids, neighbour’s kids or colleague’s kids.
This relative measurement system at times is more powerful than Einstein’s Theory of Relativity because the child’s TV and YouTube hours will be decided on the outcome. Each parent has his/her own set of parameters that may have evolved with his/her own experience or view of the future.
Educational degree or experience as a surrogate for talent or skill is not valid anymore. What’s truly valid is the ability to apply practical knowledge and adapt to changes that are going to happen with lightning speed.
As a parent what would I be focusing on to expose my child to or invest in my child to develop a sustainable and flexible skill repository, to make the child future safe? Now comes the toughest part.
It’s always convenient and easy to identify flaws in the current system and dedicate reams of paper to it and sound bugles to say we did the job. Honestly, that’s only one quarter of the job. The three quarters lie in proposing a solution framework that can be fine-tuned, as we progress.
The foundation to the solution lies in data science. Just Google these two words and you will see many definitions but the most relevant is what we truly believe in, which says that Data Science is a science of working with data.
For a moment let’s think you are a naysayer and start to wonder isn’t this an overkill, why would I need data science to understand my child and am I not complicating the process of understanding the child further? To believe that data science is all encompassing and is an accurate way to understand a child may sound wildly exaggerating.
But then companies today, all over the world are using data science successfully to crack some of their complex business problems.
Data science, by combining statistics, mathematics and machine learning simultaneously, can help solve certain unanswered questions of the past and provide probabilistic directions to the future. If it doesn’t yield the desired results, leaders won’t stake their reputation and dollars on it. That’s one side of the coin.
To be continued
(Ramakrishna Prasad is a freelance data scientist; firstname.lastname@example.org, with inputs from Swaminathan SB, a startup mentor; email@example.com)