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Much of the learning taking place in South Africa’s current education system is by rote and regurgitation. This system is clearly not working for employers, judging by the growing unemployment statistics: South Africa currently has 5.8m unemployed people between the ages of 15 and 35. It’s time to get creative about finding solutions to education and talent development in general, said Dr Taddy Blecher, co-founder of the Maharishi Institute, at a Heavy Chef event in Johannesburg recently. The Institute offers free tertiary education to those who would not otherwise be able to afford it.

“In order to drive more effective education, the IT revolution needs to be matched by even faster human evolution – an area where there is currently a mismatch,” Blecher said. While education tends to focus purely on intellect, it also needs to develop other areas including body, senses, mind, feelings, ego and being/consciousness.

Through the consciousness-based Maharishi Institute, the National Virtual Incubator and Entrepreneurship in Schools, Blecher and his partners aim to combine technology with a human face to enable learning at all levels.

The Maharishi Institute uses education partners to facilitate long-distance live synchronous learning while gaining work experience, as part of what is termed the learn-and-earn approach. The National Virtual Incubator is a public-private partnership using mobile technology to provide support services to entrepreneurs and small businesses, while the Entrepreneurship in Schools initiative aims to improve education for 12m youths each year through practical skills provided by enabling apps such as Siyavula for maths and science and Top Dog Education.

It’s an approach that appears to be working – since opening 16 years ago, over 95% of the 15,250 graduates with degrees, diplomas or vocational training have found jobs, reported Blecher, with expected combined lifetime earnings of approximately R10m.

“All of these initiatives use technology to make a real difference in education at all levels, but the real future of education remains about people. Mass personalisation is going to drive this sphere: technology will enable adaptive learning that is tailored to the individual and allows them to go at their own pace,” he concluded.

The big take-out: Technology is an increasingly vital component of education, but on its own can never be the whole answer – combining it with a human face is vital. In future, education will focus on mass personalisation tailored to teaching individuals at their own pace.

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