Rethink Education to Prepare Developing Asia for the Future of Jobs and Skills

As technological change and automation increasingly disrupt many aspects of daily life, developing economies in Asia and the Pacific must rethink education and training to ensure students have the right skills for the jobs of the future, according to a new book published by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Anticipating and Preparing for Emerging Skills and Jobs examines the impacts on society, the economy, and the evolving world of work from phenomena including the emergence of new technology and globalization and their implications for education and training.

“Most education systems around the world were founded 100–150 years ago to meet the needs of the first and second industrial revolutions,” said ADB Education Sector Group Chief Brajesh Panth, co-editor of the book. “Yet, they’re facing serious challenges in meeting emerging labor market needs that relate to 21st century skills and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. While developing Asia has made remarkable progress in enhancing access to education, we must now rethink education itself to ensure learning for all so that students are able to absorb and apply the skills necessary to prosper in the 21st century.”

To ensure that students are equipped with digital skills and soft skills, as well as others beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic, the book advocates a two-pronged strategy for developing countries to go “back to basics” to improve learning outcomes for all students while paving opportunities for leapfrogging.

The book outlines a series of recommendations, including that schools move away from classifying all learners into one category, and the customizing of education to meet the learning needs of all types of learners. Besides laying a solid foundation at school level to leapfrog industrialization, the book recommends that developing countries build high-quality universities to prepare graduates in key areas such as agricultural modernization, biotechnology, and digital skills—drawing lessons from the Republic of Korea, Singapore, and others that have become economic powerhouses by investing in human capital.

Also highlighted in the book is the vital role of technology in transforming future learning outcomes in ways ranging from adaptive learning programs to help students learn at their own pace through personalized learning, to continuous skills enhancement for teachers through online blended courses. Technology has enabled the surge in online learning for the estimated over 1.5 billion children who were out of school worldwide at the peak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, according to UNESCO.

The publication is a collection of 40 articles contributed by eminent policymakers, practitioners, and researchers, and is co-edited by Rupert Maclean from the School of Education at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. It is the latest in the Springer Book Series Education in the Asia Pacific Region: Issues, Concerns and Prospects, first published in 2002.