Education on 4C’s: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century Book Review

“Humans could never predict the future with accuracy. But today, it is more difficult than ever before because once technology enables to engineer bodies, brains and minds, we can no longer be certain about anything – including things that previously seemed fixed and eternal.” – Yuval Noah Harari

I am a believer in education and continuous learning for that matter. Over time I’ve committed and gave myself out to pursuits that support education. Being raised by teachers and ultimately being a teacher at one point in my life, I’ve never found a more fulfilling vocation. Being able to nurture another to be better versions of themselves and see them thrive at that. In the recent couple of days I’ve been finishing my read of 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari, a book that took me more than any other book I’ve read partly because of conflicting engagements. In the books as he envisions a future and the skills needed for this future he talks about education.

Education as we know it is about nurturing and equipping individuals with skills to be able to comprehend certain phenomena and perform certain functions/tasks. This has been the basis of our education systems from the industrial era with need for industrial workers who could operate machines, execute functions and sustain the engine of these corporations running. As we venture into a new era supported by and anchored on technological advances, there’s more to hope and wish for in this future. One thing we however must change is our education system. As he argues for the integration of the 4C’s i.e., critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity as the required skills in our common future. People need general purpose life-skills more than the specific technical skills. Arguing for this he alludes to the fact that as we grow in our carriers most people are likely to make lateral moves in their professions letting go of the core technical skills they needed for those functions but adopting the general project management skills i.e., transferable skills. This is what we need in this future and I earlier did a short video on this for pharmacists where I did posit on why Project Management is the future of Pharmacy Practice.

Early this month I attended the 42nd Annual Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK) Conference and in one of the side talks with some colleagues we delved into the challenges our young pharmacists were facing. Some of the critical issues revolved around being too technical with focus on applying technical knowledge which is good but the conceptual skills to be able to apply the knowledge in performing non-technical roles was more desirable in the market. Additionally, communication and critical thinking skills which were lacking among them was a drawback especially when they are made to interface with non-technical individuals in practice. This is the basis upon which we are improving on our YPG mentorship program with the hope of facilitating the acquisition of this kind of knowledge.

In the same line with Yuval Noah Harari, we need critical thinking, creativity and collaboration in order to function better and this is the precipe upon which we need to anchor our education system. If education is to help us run our lives effectively and address challenges in our society, it then needs to equip us with the ability to think, conceptualize and ideate on ways of doing all this rather than giving straightforward answers which is the current model.

“Education should train on how to think, not what to think. Education should equip you to engage your reasoning faculties rather than your remembering faculties. There’s no new knowledge in remembering but in thinking afresh.”

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