During a meeting of the Board of Directors of a university, the intervention of the Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research, and Innovation, Dr. Abdellatif Miraoui, stirred my attention when he talked about the new generation of students in Morocco and the world, and the future of the university in general.
The minister, as an academic and researcher in engineering sciences, is one of those who experienced the internal problems of the university. He is also a leading professor for his continuous intellectual and institutional contributions. He has held several high positions in Morocco and abroad, and has made several contributions to the framework of university reform and scientific research.
In our meeting, Dr. Miraoui spoke about the “Alpha Generation,” which he means that the lives of the current generation are qualitatively different from our lives, because they were born in a time of digital development and an abundance of technology, and in the future, they will have new jobs that they perform other than the ones we perform.
For example, a third of the new jobs that we find in the United States of America (USA) during the last two decades did not exist before in areas such as: creating applications, developing and managing information technology, and manufacturing digital devices. And this generation calls for all of us a set of immediate strategies to protect this generation from all that he can experience from his lack of participation in social activities, the need to reform the university and keep it in line with the requirements of this generation, and the requirements of the current labor market.
There is more evidence of the need to expedite radical reforms in our educational system, and to generalize the distinguished studies so that the new generation can access the job market successfully. This is what is happening in the public policies of some countries. For example, the US Senate, in a rare moment of understanding between Democrats and Republicans, passed a bill to allocate large investments in advanced technology.
The plan provides more than$ 170 billion for research and development goals. This plan budgets $ 120 billion to the government agency “National Science Foundation” to encourage research in various fields that are considered key, such as artificial intelligence.
The plan also allots $1.5 billion to develop the fifth-generation (5G) telecommunications network. Whoever will win the race for future technologies such as artificial intelligence will “be the leader in the global economy.”
We in our Arab countries must quickly raise the issue of specializations and future jobs in light of the rapid and unprecedented transformations produced by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and artificial intelligence technology, which in turn raises many questions about the future of the education system and its relationship to future jobs, especially in light of studies that expect robots and smart devices to replace humans in many areas of life and jobs in the coming years. The second half of the twentieth century witnessed the fifth communication revolution, where the development of communication can be distinguished through five basic revolutions.
The first revolution presents in the development of language, the second revolution appears in writing, and the third revolution is associated with the invention of printing in the mid-fifteenth century by the German scientist Gutenberg. The features of the fourth communication revolution in the nineteenth century came through the discovery of electricity, electromagnetic waves, telegraph, telephone, photography, and cinematography, then the emergence of radio and television in the first half of the twentieth century.
And the fifth communication revolution was made possible by technology in the second half of the twentieth century through the integration of the phenomenon of information the development of the means of communication and the variety of its methods.
The progress of information and communication technology has shaken teaching and learning curricula, as it has become difficult for a modern university professor, who is not familiar with new communication technologies such as iTune, “Second Life”, YouTube or free online lessons such as MIT Open courseware, “edX”, or “khan Academy”, to keep pace with students who they are very knowledgeable about social media. Moreover, the dominant language on the Internet is English (57 percent), followed by other languages: German (6.5 percent), Russian, Japanese, Spanish and Chinese (4 and 5 percent), and finally French (3.9 percent).
This is one of the main challenges faced by newly established universities, which should establish a technological ground that enables students and professors to access the available and free knowledge. Thus, professors can be freed from the constraint of re-creating lessons, and thus use their time to train students instead of flooding them with information available on the Internet.
Marketing knowledge should be one of the university’s goals, and this culture, unfortunately, is absent in many Arab countries.
The trilogy of university – governance – industry, is what builds Western nations, strengthens their industries, and contributes to building the present and the future. These are, then, some of the important and purposeful conditions upon which the university must be based, as a main and first pole in the service, building, and development of society.
And they are, as can be seen by every intelligent observer, the conditions upon which Western universities are based, from which all modern industries have been crystallized, and from which Nobel Prize holders, creators, and owners of successive inventions have graduated.
And without these conditions, the university remains a useless institution based on receiving, memorizing, and regurgitating what the first and the last wrote.
Translated by Ahmed Moamar