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Monday, November 29, 2021

National Skills Conference: STEM Subjects Key In Preparing Students For Employment In 4IR Careers, Says Nzimande

SCIENCE, Technology, Engineering and Mathematical (STEM) subjects have a crucial role to play in equipping students in rapidly developing fields such as genomics, data science, Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics and nanomaterials, which are all Fourth Industrial Revolution concepts.

This is according to Higher Education Minister Dr Blade Nzimande during his opening address of the national skills conference on Tuesday.  

Nzimande said that these new subjects would not be limited to a focus on technology but would also include changes in the outcomes of what students are taught, with new entrepreneurship programmes also being introduced at universities to promote new local businesses.

“The innovation and digitalisation put a premium on adaptability and in self-directed learning and thinking,” he said.

“Therefore, lifelong learning will be key as the shelf life of any skills development ecosystem has limitations in the present-day environment.”

He said an evolving 4IR STEM curriculum would have to reconsider the rigid disciplinary boundary framing of traditional subjects such as biology, chemistry and physics— given the integrative role of digital technologies in relation to each and their intersections in the real world.

“It is also inevitable that any effective 4IR strategy should foreground the human condition: the ways in which new technologies and shifting economic power impact on people with regards to equality, human freedom and social solidarity,” said Nzimande.

“It is therefore crucial that the Humanities and Social Sciences must be reinvented and strengthened to play a crucial role in shaping the discourses of science and technology to speak to the cultural, social, political and economic issues. Both the Human Research Council (HSRC) and the National Institute of Humanities and Social Science (NIHSS) must play a leading role in this regard. How do we combat social alienation in a world dominated by machines? How do we ensure algorithms do not engender new forms of racism and class prejudice? How do we harness the powers of the new technologies to overcome the historical questions of oppression and exploitation?”

He added: “The innovation and digitalization puts a premium on adaptability and in self-directed learning and thinking. Therefore lifelong learning will be key as the shelf life of any skills development ecosystem has limitations in the present-day environment. Placing innovation and digitalisation at the centre of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Programme (ERRP).”

“This Government, together with the social partners at NEDLAC, has adopted the ERRP as our emergency economic programme to deal with the impact of Covid 19 on our economy. However the major premise of the ERRP is that we simply do not want to return our country to the economic crisis before COVID-19, but to use this opportunity to build a new and more inclusive economy.”

  • * Inside Education
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