Digital solutions explored at the 2022 Future of Education Summit

Business leaders, educational experts and technology specialists shared their innovative solutions to challenges facing the traditional education model in the digital age. Focusing on The Pathway to Digital Transformation, speakers engaged in one-on-one interviews and panel discussions at the free-to-attend 8th Annual Future of Education Summit, by CNBC AFRICA in partnership with FORBES AFRICA, hosted virtually on Friday, 29 July.  

“We’d like to extend our thanks to the event sponsors, The British Council, HP Africa, The Transnational Academic Group, and UCT Online High School, for their support and expertise in this much-needed digital dialogue,” said Dr Rakesh Wahi, Co-founder of the ABN Group and Founder of the Future of Education Summit. “We also owe a massive debt of gratitude to the illustrious speaker line-up, all of whom provided unique insights drawn on their own experience in the education and technological sector. The purpose of this event is to bring together thought leaders from around the world to share their experiences, particularly in the higher education space as this is the phase that determines the trajectory of a student’s future.”

Having welcomed global audiences to this free-to-attend summit, Dr Rakesh Wahi handed over the reigns to keynote speaker, Prof Andy Schofield, Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University. The award-winning theoretical physicist set the tone by outlining the needs that have to be met in a post-pandemic reality where technology could drive growth, bridge the gap and improve the future of all students. 

“Students across Africa are able to access our academic excellence in teaching and research throughout the continent, and choose from a wide range of foundation undergraduate and post-graduate programmes, earning a British qualification closer to home,” commented Prof Schofield.

There were five panel discussions at this year’s summit, led by world-renowned industry leaders. Among them were Suraj Shah, Lead for the Regional Centre for Innovative Teaching and Learning at Mastercard Foundation; Prof Gary Martin, CEO and Executive Director of the Australian Institute of Management; Jon Foster-Pedley, Dean and Director of Henley Business School in Africa; Jaye Richards-Hill, Director of Education Industry for Middle East and Africa, Microsoft Corp; and Prof Barry Dwolatzky, an Emeritus Professor and Director of Innovation Strategy at the University of Witwatersrand – among many others.

The panel discussions were centred on the topics:

·  Digital Transformation in Education

·  Technology Challenges in Teaching and Learning

·  Lessons from Covid & Developed World Transformation Strategies for African Education

·  Transformation of Higher Education Leadership

· The Schools Business: Digital Transformation in Formal K-12 Schooling and Supplementary Tutoring

Audiences were also treated to a number of one-on-one sessions that provided incredible insight into key topics. Bello Tongo the CEO of Tongston Entrepreneurship, spoke on Incorporating Entrepreneurship Thinking in Education from Primary to Tertiary Levels while drawing on his extensive experience as a multi-award-winning entrepreneur, educator and industry leader.

He explained that entrepreneurial education should be purpose-driven and started in childhood: “Entrepreneurship, enterprise skills and knowledge are developed in isolation of other subjects, unfortunately. It’s important that whatever entrepreneurial attitude, skills and knowledge that the child is going to get, has to happen by this period.”

Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, Deputy Chair of the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and recently appointed Rector of the United Nations University in Tokyo, spoke about Transformation in the Education Sector. As an accomplished scholar with multi-disciplinary research interests – artificial intelligence in engineering, computer science, finance, social science and medicine – Prof Marwala brought great insights into this topic.

“We don’t just train people to go seek jobs, we also train people industrialise our society,” explained Prof Marwala, who added that the university spent almost R10 million a month to get students data access during the pandemic. “One thing that has worked is that UJ is actually an innovative university of the fourth industrial revolution, and therefore, some of the digital tools that we are using we actually develop ourselves. We have technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality that really makes some of the experiments much more accessible.”

The Future of Secondary Schooling: Hybrid or Online? was the focus for Robert Paddock, the CEO and Founder of Valenture Institute. He was able to touch on how Valenture, a social enterprise, has turned physical limitations into digital opportunities by enabling students to choose an aspirational school regardless of their circumstances.

“Online learning was certainly around before Covid, but Covid placed a firm spotlight on the necessity for alternative access points to education,” explained Paddock. “Unfortunately, what it also exposed was the radical digital divide that we experience in our country, and the necessity to start investing a huge amount of the infrastructure spend into digital infrastructure.”

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