Innovative technological solutions for education explored at the 7th annual Future of Education Summit

Dr. Catherine Duggan, Director (Dean) of UCT GSB
Dr. Catherine Duggan, Director (Dean) of UCT GSB

The arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic revealed some startling cracks in the one-dimensional nature of modern education. The traditional approach needs urgent attention, with technology-driven solutions and lifelong learning at the forefront. These were some of the innovative topics explored by prominent academics and business leaders at the 7th Annual Future of Education Summit hosted virtually on Thursday, 29 July by CNBC AFRICA in partnership with FORBES AFRICA.


Rakesh Wahi, Founder of The Future of Education Summit and Co-Founder of the ABN Group, opened this year’s summit where he discussed the theme ‘Redefining the future of education’: “We urgently need to redefine the purpose of education so that, even while preparing a learning and ethical society, we move away from historic and outdated practices and address the future needs in line with current opportunities and challenges being faced by the industry in general, and the youth in particular.”


Building on this theme and through a series of expert panel discussions, talks and one-on-one interviews, industry leaders reflected on challenges within the education sector, while discussing more creative and flexible solutions. The 2021 speaker line-up boasted a wealth of academic and business experience, among them Professor Mark E. Smith, Vice Chancellor of Southampton University; Kumeshnee West, Director of Executive Education of the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB); Professor Mohammed Salifu, Director-General of Ghana Tertiary Education Commission; and Tom Bennett, Director and Founder of researchED.


The topics focused on closing the skills’ gap, building capacity and prioritising education in business planning to bring the sector into the 21st century. Technological innovation and its creative use in an educational setting was a common trend, with everything from online schooling to sports’ instruction discussed. The speakers sought to redefine the purpose of education, analysing how this would inform areas in the education system, such as leadership, curriculum development, skills and capacity building, psychological impact, technology and teaching methodology, wider-ranging credentials and financing.


According to West, 50 percent of the world’s employees will have to be re-skilled by 2025: “With the 4th industrial revolution, we need teams that can take these organisations to the new frontier.”


In terms of skills’ development, it’s important that children on the African continent are not left behind. Dr. Catherine Duggan, Director (Dean) of UCT GSB, commented: “The gap between the ‘haves and the have nots’ amongst learners needs to shrink drastically, and the playing field needs to be levelled in this new age. We need to have an understanding of the local context and how it can be incorporated into the education sector, to bring in lessons and learning from our local communities and not exclusively from the west.”


This means a much more holistic approach will be needed to meet the changing needs of the education sector and support from both the private and public sector. As William Mzimba, Chief Executive Officer for Vodacom Business explained: “Every part of the education ecosystem will need support through their digital transformation journey with the goal of ensuring education remains inclusive as a basic human right.


“The e-School digital education platform has supported more than 1.25 million South African learners, while over 260 000 students in the DRC and Tanzania benefited from the free access to online learning materials that we enabled. One of the goals Vodacom has set is to connect an additional six million people to digital education opportunities by 2025.”


Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT) discussed the launch of the online UCT high school which aims to break boundaries while disrupting the old structure of basic and higher education: “We educate to advance the nature of human condition. There are growing concerns now in the education sector, forcing us as stakeholders to face the hard questions, in the redefinition of education.”

For a truly holistic approach to education, the importance of sports’ skills cannot be overlooked. Gary Kirsten, the international cricket coach, leadership consultant, philanthropist and entrepreneur, explained his innovative CoachEd Cricket – an online coaching qualification platform.


“Currently coach education around the world is quite linear and you have to qualify through the levels and then you get invited onto the courses. Creating an online environment has helped any coach get access to the level of coach education that he requires and that he wants.”


CNBC AFRICA in partnership with FORBES AFRICA extended thanks to the sponsors, without whom the free-to-attend Future of Education Summit wouldn’t have been possible. These included University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business, Vodacom Business, Eiffel Corp, The University of Johannesburg, Vuma, Transnational Academic Group, Lancaster University: Ghana, as well as Curtin University: Dubai.

If you missed out on the 7th Annual Future of Education Summit, you can watch the discussions here:


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