Critical thinking skills, ability to ask meaningful questions, how to ask questions right, ability to seek out answers from sources , ability to communicate effectively, ability to work together, to collaborate effectively — these are skills which are going to be much more increasingly important going forward, irrespective of what kind of jobs people are doing.
This latticework of skills is really changing and has to really change what higher education looks at. So whether its basic economics, numerical literacy, finance, sales, the best ideas in psychology, history, a bit of software programming , manipulating data, writing macros and Excel, these things are very important today as we go forward.
Writing, presenting – these are skills needed for success in tomorrow’s world, and very little of this is actually being taught today. In fact education has not changed as much in the last 20 years since I graduated from IIT Bombay in 1988. In my own education, we had the Humanities department teaching economics courses. I realise the value of economics now, in the last few years. And at that time it was almost looked down upon, the arts and humanities. It’s one of those courses where the lectures were skippable, you could just learn up something, the grades did not matter and all that stuff.
It took me nearly 15 years to really undo that bias against economics, sociology and some of these subjects and that’s a big big drawback in the world that we’re living in today. What you need to get across to people, when you talk about multi-disciplinary skills, is a mix of humanities, business and technology. It needs to be drilled into people at a much earlier age.
You have today, 6-7-8 year old kids, very familiar with computing, they play video games , they are on facebook with email addresses and so on, uploading photos, and so on. That’s the world we have to really look at. These are the kids who are going to be the customers of higher education going forward. Are our schools and universities preparing us for this? This is one fundamental point which needs to be thought about. It is almost that we need to hack education for tomorrow’s world, and that is not happening.