18 Sep 2017, IPEC BUREAU

Technological advancements can uproot many things that are conventional. Then there is teaching, a role that can never be taken on by machines because the bond between a student and teacher is what brings about the best in both. A teacher does not just teach. He / she nurtures and enriches the lives of students, a human touch that cannot be replicated by machines. The picture of a pre-school teacher, that I took at a recent campaign, speaks volumes on what a teacher represents.

I spoke to her about her aspirations for next 20 to 30 years. It pretty much illustrated the unique responsibilities and will involve in the teaching profession. While technology has greatly helped improve society and continues to do so, we can safely say that a job of a teacher can never be substituted by any amount of advancements in technology, as it has to be so customised to meet the learning objective of each student. The five words on her t-shirt – “I TEACH…WHAT’S YOUR SUPERPOWER?” – hits the nail on the head.

After all, many superheroes had great teachers and educators to help channel their superpowers and strengths to good use. Some may fear the adverse impact of technology on jobs but I personally believe that it actually creates greater opportunities. Irrespective of how powerful or state-of-the-art a machine or Artificial Intelligence (AI) is, its effectiveness in implementation still needs the genius of the human brain and skills, hence this could help create more jobs. Remember legendary chess world master Gary Kasparov?

Twenty years ago, he was beaten by IBM’s Big Blue computer and it was claimed by some pundits as “a milestone in the progress of artificial intelligence and a depressing day for humankind in general.” But, Kasparov won one match, lost one and drew the other three. It was only the decider that he lost. And in his own words, “Human strategic guidance combined with the tactical acuity of a computer is overwhelming.” The bottom line is, the effectiveness of a machine is down to the information fed to it by the people managing it.

Therein lies the perfect combination. Technology has amazingly advanced methods of the teaching and helps teachers effectively asses and guide students much better than, say, 10 years ago. An example would be the artificial intelligence program that ESG Business School in Paris will be implementing. It uses a facial recognition software called Nestor to identify if students are paying attention in class. It will help teachers improve the effectiveness of their teaching based on feedback when students are paying attention or when they’re not.

I may have stressed on the teaching profession but this is relevant to all other professions too as we have seen for ourselves how much technology and innovation has changed the face of many industries through the years. I can safely say that there will be no respite in technology influencing our lives into the future hence, whatever filed or expertise you’re in, it is essential you embrace technology to remain relevant in your profession which will continue to evolve rapidly. Otherwise, you run the risk of falling behind in your overall development which could easily make you redundant or, dispensable.

Taking all this on board, we cannot stress enough the importance of pre-school human capital education to cultivate the aspirations of children and mould them over the next 30 years, in line with Malaysia’s National Transformation 2050 (TN50) agenda. For this to succeed, we need the power of teaching from teachers ably complemented by technological advancements to ensure a holistic educational system that contributes immensely towards nation building to successfully achieve the TN 50 mission.

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