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Sustainability & digital skills: Education can change world

Today’s world is facing a twin challenge: recovering from the pandemic, and struggling to become more sustainable. As we shift from the pandemic, a big realisation across companies and governments alike is the role that education plays in ensuring an analytical and scientific response to the challenges we face. In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of terms such as digital natives associated with the younger generation. However, the ability to use digital devices and consume digital content does not necessarily translate well to enhancing employment prospects for all. Today’s digital world, with its massive amounts of information and misinformation, requires an unprecedented level of fluidity from students. They must be able to distinguish fact from opinion, objectivity from bias, and honesty from insincerity in an online setting. They must understand the risks of technology and the internet, and how to mitigate those risks. At the same time, the digital world requires them to have the soft skills of an adapter, a creator, a problem solver, and a critical thinker. Are students ready?

Why we need to understand digital skills

The worrying answer is that not all students may be ready for a digital future. In a new comprehensive report from the Capgemini Research Institute titled Future-Ready Education, we found that across all students aged 16–18, only 55% say they have the digital skills necessary to be successful in today’s workforce. More worryingly, there also appears to be a perception gap between teachers and parents when it comes to the abilities of students, and their perception of students. The usage of digital media is often conflated with digital skills, leading teachers and parents to overestimate their students’ abilities and knowledge of digital technologies. Digital skills as a competency include four categories: digital literacy (understanding how computers, the internet and mobile devices work), digital citizenship (engaging in appropriate and responsible behaviours online), data literacy (understanding how to work with data and how to analyse and interpret it) and media literacy (understanding how to determine which online sources are credible, with the ability to evaluate content online).

The growing importance of soft and green skills

The digital world requires students to have the soft skills of an adapter, creator, problem solver and critical thinker. Creative thinking and analytical thinking are the most important skills for workers in 2023 and are the top two fastest-growing skills per the latest Future of Jobs Report from the World Economic Forum. Our research found that a large share of students lack key soft skills for employment. At the same time, green skills have gained prominence in recent years. Green skills enable students to live sustainably and manage their carbon footprint in a more effective manner. These skills can empower students to become changemakers in their own communities. One of the significant benefits of green skills is that they unlock new opportunities in emerging fields related to sustainability, providing a competitive edge in the job market. While nearly 80% of students globally say in our survey they are knowledgeable about recycling and waste reduction, only about half say they are knowledgeable about environmental policy (54%) and climate change (58%).

The rise of Generative AI

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) is a key skill for future jobs and has the potential to disrupt education. Nearly 60% of secondary school teachers globally believe interacting with AI systems will be a skill required for jobs in the future. A majority of teachers have experimented with ChatGPT already and while they are worried about its impact on learning, many can also see its potential. Globally, 52% of secondary school teachers in our survey believe AI tools like ChatGPT will change the teaching profession for the better. However, this would require adapting curriculums and assessments to account for student use of AI-generated content, which over half (56%) of secondary school teachers globally agree with.

Education as a driver of progress

In today’s interconnected world the future success of students depends on their digital literacy. Teaching digital skills to young children and teenagers in secondary education is crucial, particularly in a world that is rapidly shaped and transformed by AI. It allows them to engage with technology safely and responsibly, and equips them with the tools they need to succeed in a changing world. Despite growing up surrounded by technology, not all of today’s students have the digital skills required to use technology effectively and confidently for their education, or for their future role in the workforce. The digital divide is not just about access to the internet and devices, but about the proficiency gap between students who have the digital skills to succeed and those who do not. Addressing these gaps can help support the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Goal #4 (providing equitable access to quality education) and Goal #8 (enabling decent work and economic growth). Digital skills enable digitisation, internet penetration, and accessible technology and are therefore the key to improving the existing structural flaws. While strengthening education systems will help mobilise new streams of progress and boost productivity and quality of work, innovation in education is the key to making sure our future workforce is positively transformed by AI and technology.    
    Source  Sustainability