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Mariela Baeva
Mariela Baeva
Member of the European Parliament for Bulgaria
2007 - 2009
(first direct EP elections in Bulgaria);

LEED to OECD partner (Nanotech)

News of the Day

The Global Tantrum 
 Act for Early Years logo

Young people in partnership with @Theirworld demanded action on the #GlobalEducationCrisis and world leaders have listened. #IFFEd will unlock billions for children globally and help deliver a world where every child has a place in school. #LetMeLearn

Theirworld, Your Walk: Thank you! –

Nous venons de signer cette lettre ouverte pour demander aux chefs d’Etat et de gouvernement de faire de l’école gratuite pour tous les enfants un droit humain universel.

Facing the Unknown: Does ICT exclude or include?*

As we probably all know by now, the digital transformation is not a trend but a deep change in our societies, economic models and ways to communicate and consume; a rising world of robotics to replace human muscles and artificial intelligence (AI) to replace human brains. Everyone is facing this revolution, all sectors, all people, all countries. Everyone is feeling the consequences: jobs will evolve or disappear, knowledge is available to all for the best and the worst and relationships and social hierarchy are being shaken up.

This splits the population apart. On one side, there are those who are at ease in this new world, understanding the codes, trends, rules and logic in the sequences of events. On the other side, people are lost and do not understand what happens. The digital transformation also increases existing gaps between societal groups. Older and younger generations have different approaches to digital. Urban citizens are far more connected than rural populations. Higher education usually brings a more agile state of mind and an ability to embrace change better. And among various ICT forecasts, there is a risk that AI will be trained using biased datasets, thus reproducing – and perhaps increasing – inequalities due to gender, race or religion. This split may explain the rise of populism in some countries, or can lead to protests like the French “yellow jackets”, when people feel rejected or feel treated like second-class citizens.

So how can we include everyone into this new era?

We believe that education is the key. It includes classic primary and high school, so the younger generations will be ready for their own society in a decade’s time. It includes higher education to develop a new, well-skilled workforce for tomorrow. It includes re-skilling people today in many companies so they can keep their job. Finally, senior and older people need support to access all the powerful features of digital such as government agencies, online shopping or digital literacy.

But is education ready for this?

The current system was designed for the previous industrial revolution, and the result was a success: every major country of the last century has developed a strong education system. With new ways of growing businesses, communicating and being a citizen, are the old rules and models still relevant? Our opinion is that education must change drastically to target the predicted skills required for this digital world. It should focus on a student-centred model, that adapts to an individual’s pace, gives a choice of paths and learning approaches and develops generic skills like problem solving, collaboration, critical thinking and self-learning. These goals make sense because on one hand, every individual is different and deserves a dedicated learning path, and on the other teaching today’s skills is not enough as our world evolves and the future is uncertain. Everyone must be prepared to face the unknown. These are choices we have made at 42, our IT school in Paris, France. Using a bespoke pedagogical system called peer-learning, we aim to teach our students both classic technological skills and generic soft skills.

Almost paradoxically, the only way to achieve such an individual learning approach is to use ICT. AI can offer several reliable learning paths for everyone, or adapt the difficulty of exercises. Simulations, sandboxes and serious games can offer controlled environments to let learners explore and experiment. ICT offers everyone access to a wealth of information and data, anywhere, anytime. This is valuable knowledge, and needs to be exploited as long as filtering, analytical and evaluation skills are developed in parallel. Remote learning possibilities with MOOCs, according to your own schedule, are an asset to improve re-skilling the entire workforce of a country. Finally, all these aspects normalise the use of ICT in education, reflecting day-to-day life and instilling a stronger ICT culture in everyone.

 So, does ICT include or exclude? Or is just a tool guided by humanity’s hand that, depending on its use, can have opposite effects? In order not to leave half the population behind, a conscious ambition for inclusion should be the first step of any new rising technology.

*OECD Forum Network

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