“Learning is not a product of schooling but the lifelong attempt to acquire it” noted Albert Einstein a long time ago. This adage rings even more true in today’s world than it did when Einstein first uttered it. Knowledge is quickly replacing cheap labor and physical resources as the driver for economic growth. Economic development is now increasingly more linked to a nation’s ability to acquire and apply knowledge.
Forty years ago, the Philippines (I heard) was an economic powerhouse and was the second most progressive country in Asia vying behind Japan. It was also right about that time, after the Korean War, when the Philippines was the envy of South Korea for being the land of opportunities and immense natural resources. Fast forward to the present and Korea is lightyears ahead in terms of technology while the Philippines has collapsed into the economic basket case it is known as today. In the IT industry nowadays, India secures the top spot in graduating more and more “hard” engineering and comp sci /IT majors each year.
As I was going through the UNESCO report on the state of adult learning and education and the Global Report on Adult Learning and Education, it occurred to me that the economic and social development of the Philippines could also be hinged on knowledge and education.
I believe that this is the issue for us today — Knowledge Management tools can be inherited easily from more advanced nations, but those in the Global South (and Middle), including the Philippines, may not as easily inherit the skills needed to use them. For one, Internet is already widely available here (despite its dismal state). However, the use of the Internet as a crucible in the gathering and refining of knowledge is lost in the majority of its users here. This is evident in the relative stagnancy of many of the topic-based forums in the Philippines, at least compared to social networking, entertainment, and e-commerce sites. In comparison, CoPs and CoIs of varying sizes and complexities are very active in North American and European nations. Another example is SEARCA, which has a very robust structure that can be emulated. In general, Knowledge Management — both as a management tool and as an avenue for research and development — can be severely impacted by lack of technological utilization. While there is a link between lack of ICT systems and poverty, there might also be a link between this same poverty and the improper/inefficient use of existing systems. When it comes to statistics, the Philippines prides itself on being able to closely follow the world’s technological times — but we are not exactly sure if the technology that we currently have is being put to productive use. Our “little learning” may be driving us to rest on our laurels.
With the advancements of technology which has allowed us access to information right at our fingertips, learning is hardly a question of accessibility anymore. And yet when I look at supposed CoPs on FB, there’s hardly any exchange of knowledge or mentoring going on. Rather it’s a venue to gripe about one’s job, compare salaries and a HR’s treasure find.
Modern technology has taken over every fibre of the world we live in today, and so much so that it dictates the job market. It has eliminated the demand for routine manual jobs in manufacturing industries as such tasks like counting, packing, etc. are mostly done by robots. The rule doesn’t even apply to manual jobs only; routine cognitive tasks have likewise been ripe candidates for computerising.
It then becomes imperative for the educational system to top be flexible enough to adjust to the changes in the labor demand and focus on equipping people with 21st century skills: critical thinking, problem solving, team work, knowledge management and digital literacy.
Even the best educational systems might not suffice in such a rapidly changing world. The key to any persons’s success is that no matter what level we find ourselves in life or at any organisation, we can accept change. Those who cannot become obsolete in the organisation. This implies we have to study throughout our whole lives, and we can never be too old to learn. Anyone who is not open to learning is slamming down the gates on their own future.
UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning [UIL]. (2009). Global report on adult learning and education, pp. 43-116. Hamburg: UIL. http://www.unesco.org/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/INSTITUTES/UIL/confintea/pdf/GRA LE/grale_en.pdf
UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines [NatCom] (2008). The Development and state of the art of adult learning and education. Available at http://www.unesco.org/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/INSTITUTES/UIL/confintea/pdf/Nati onal_Reports/Asia%20-%20Pacific/Philippines.pdf