By Ndapewoshali Shapwanale
Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation Dr. Iita Kandji-Murangi said that while the public universities are on the right track to develop and transform their academic programs to equip students with digital skills and develop their digital talents, more focused and targeted work needs to be done moving forward.
The minister was saying this in response to a question whether the Namibian education system as a whole speaks to the fourth industrial revolution.
“Our universities have a big role to play in that they will have to change the way they teach and impart knowledge. Research and knowledge production are now truly important instruments for transforming industries, economies and nations. Universities have to really broaden their research funding base through effective collaborations and partnerships,” the minister said.
Describing the revolution as concerning the present and future environment in which disruptive technologies and trends such as Internet of Things, Robotics, virtual reality and artificial intelligence, Kandji-Murangi said that it was both exciting and challenging.
She said government, educators at all levels and parents “should be seriously concerned about how to prepare present and future generations to live productively and meaningfully in this rapidly transforming world”.
“[It is] exciting because it presents possibilities, new solutions to national, regional and global challenges and employment opportunities for jobs that are yet to be invented,” the minister said.
An official at the University of Namibia who has been with the institution for well over a decade said that curriculum reform should be a constant conversation for not only the education institutions, but also for those who are in decision and policy making positions.
The official suggested that while it may be easier said than done, if the country wants to really be part of the fourth industrial revolution when it comes to the education system there needs to be a national conversation first, followed by an action plan that starts with the basics.
“We cannot call for curriculum reform at tertiary level, if what they are taught in secondary school is still far behind. The same way, we cannot talk about changing the curriculum in secondary school if the primary education is not on par and again we cannot talk about curriculum reform in primary school if children in pre-primary are not exposed,” the official said.
He went further to state that it is easy to test whether the education system is truly speaking to the fourth industrial revolution just by looking at whether what students are being taught in a certain module can be accessed through a simple Google search.
“If we are still teaching students how to draw up a business plan, that is in abundance on the world wide web, then we are doing something wrong,” he said.
Kandji-Murangi told The Patriot that Namibia already started thinking about industrialisation in 2004, when Vision 2030 was crafted to position the country in becoming a knowledge-based nation that is competitive and industrialised by 2030.
The Founding Father, Sam Nujoma in the foreword for the Vision 2030 document said that Namibia should be an industrial nation. He further stated that Vision 2030 will take Namibia from the present into the future, “a vision that will guide us to make deliberate efforts to improve the quality of life of our people”.
Kandji-Murangi sited that the conversion of the Polytechnic of Namibia into the Namibia University of Science and Technology is also an indication of the country being focused on driving and accelerating innovation and research partnerships for Namibia’s digitalization, industrialization and, to impart and build local expertise in science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.
“The emphasis on streamlining science, technology, English and mathematics in all the levels of our education system has been with us for many years,” she said.
She added that the tertiary institutions – universities in particular – are active hubs and test-beds for research and innovation for present and future knowledge and skills development.
“By their very nature, universities strive to be universal and remain globally connected as well as regionally and nationally relevant and responsive,” the minister said.
While pointing out that cyber security, big data, robotics and other related fields are programs of study at NUST and UNAM, she added that as a small economy the competitive edge in this rapidly changing world is in correctly investing in human capital.