The rise of the likes of Trump and Ma­rine Le Pen un­der­lines the fail­ure of education

The Star (Kenya) - - Voices - ALEX O AWITI Direc­tor, the East African In­sti­tute at Aga Khan

Ev­ery­where, from the de­vel­oped world to mid­dlein­come economies, to the so-called de­vel­op­ing world, cit­i­zens and politi­cians are paral­ysed by stag­nant or fall­ing wages and stag­gered by ris­ing un­em­ploy­ment.

Across the world, the un­der­class is ris­ing up and is de­mand­ing its fair share of pros­per­ity, which re­mains trapped within the elite class. There is no such a thing as trickle down.

Here in East Africa, GDP growth is high, sus­tained and un­prece­dented.

How­ever, such growth has failed to gen­er­ate em­ploy­ment for a surg­ing youth­ful pop­u­la­tion.

One in ev­ery two grad­u­ates from our uni­ver­si­ties can­not find work.

At the same time, em­ploy­ers across the East African Com­mu­nity lament that one in ev­ery two grad­u­ates are un­fit for work.

Anger among the un­der­class has trig­gered a po­lit­i­cal tsunami, which is shak­ing the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment and the elite to the core.

The Bri­tish un­der­class gave us Brexit. The un­der­class of the Rust Belt just put Don­ald Trump in the White House. Fear of im­mi­grants and ris­ing na­tion­al­ism among the French un­der­class could launch Ma­rine Le Pen.

Here at home the po­lit­i­cal elite mo­bilises the un­der­class along petty eth­nic griev­ance or false en­ti­tle­ment to ac­quire or re­tain power.

In coun­tries emerg­ing from civil war, the elite in­oc­u­late the un­der­class with a vir­u­lent nar­ra­tive of an im­mi­nent re­turn to may­hem and geno­cide.

The forces of glob­al­i­sa­tion, ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy and au­to­ma­tion — ro­bot­ics and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence — a knowl­edge-based econ­omy and the flow of global cap­i­tal are con­verg­ing to re­de­fine work and jobs.

It is es­ti­mated that about 75 mil­lion jobs as we know them to­day could be wiped out in the next two decades.

But politi­cians in­hib­ited by imag­i­na­tion, per­suaded by plain de­nial and dis­hon­esty are scape­goat­ing and con­struct­ing all kinds of prob­lems, in­clud­ing the Chi­nese, the Mex­i­cans, the Euro­pean Union, im­mi­grants, civil war and other tribes.

The rise of far-right politi­cians such as Trump or Ma­rine Le Pen and the en­durance of cor­rupt po­lit­i­cal elites in some African coun­tries un­der­lines the fail­ure of education and train­ing in­fra­struc­ture to re­spond ro­bustly and adap­tively to the post-in­dus­trial econ­omy.

Jobs, as we know them, are go­ing away. The mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion changes jobs ev­ery two years or less. Full-time work is no more. About 40 per cent of workers in the United States are con­tin­gent.

A job, with all its trap­pings such as job ti­tle and job de­scrip­tions, will soon be an­ti­quated.

Work­place struc­tures are also chang­ing. The Cor­po­rate Lad­der is quaint. We are get­ting into the age of The Cor­po­rate Lat­tice, and work is about teams, col­lab­o­ra­tion, life­long learn­ing and trans­fer­able skills.

Education must change to re­spond to pre­pare cit­i­zens for a new age.

Our education sys­tems must re­form to pre­pare cit­i­zens for the new econ­omy in a glob­alised world where prob­lems are not de­liv­ered in dis­ci­plinary boxes, and where so­lu­tions de­mand in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary and com­plex rea­son­ing.

Cap­i­tal­is­ing on the fears of the un­der­class and fan­ning their fury at the bal­lot to pro­duce out­comes such as Trump and Brexit will not yield jobs and eco­nomic se­cu­rity.

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