Technology has become a critical component of our daily lives, and its impact on learning and scholarship is profound. With a growing thirst for knowledge and expertise, universities face the challenge of preparing students for a constantly changing world. African Leadership University founder, Fred Swaniker, in his latest article on the 6 Shifts that education needs to make in response to AI, states that, “schools and corporations need to learn how to teach critical thinking skills more than ever.” The questions Fred poses to every school or corporate learning environment are: How do we teach people to think for themselves? How do we create a culture where people feel safe enough to share unconventional or unpopular ideas? How are we driving students or staff to think from ‘first principles’? As a result, the education sector must adapt by changing what and how we teach. ALU’s education approach focuses on innovation and inclusivity, using technology to expand access to world-class education while prioritising critical thinking, leadership, entrepreneurship, digital literacy, real-world experience and other essential 21st century competencies.
Education has traditionally focused on finding the right answers, but now we need to teach students how to ask good questions, Fred mentions. AI and technological advancements have made it possible to find the right answers, but still leaves the how. Rather than simply memorising answers, students need to learn how to ask good questions to obtain valuable insights. ALU’s education model is founded on teaching students to ask “why,” placing a strong emphasis on problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity. Purpose is at the centre of everything we do as a diverse community of changemakers at ALU. Instead of traditional academic majors, ALU students dedicate their time at ALU, skills, energy, talent and resources to a challenge or opportunity that captures their interest – a mission. “The ALU learning model does not limit students’ potential with traditional rules but believes in their capacity to solve Africa’s most significant challenges in new ways. From day one, we force-engineer students into collaborative problem solving, experiential learning and bring creativity into co-curricular programming,” says Veda Sunassee, CEO of African Leadership University Rwanda and African Leadership College Mauritius. By prioritising mission-driven education, ALU prepares ethical, entrepreneurial leaders who can thrive in a rapidly changing world that is increasingly being shaped by technology.
Innovative education models that prioritise “just in time” learning and real-world application are crucial for the success of future leaders and professionals. It’s time to move away from the traditional “just in case” education model, where students memorise facts and figures with no practical application, towards a more dynamic and interactive approach. Technological tools such as Chat GPT have made it easier to accomplish certain tasks but cannot replace human relationships and the valuable experience gained from hands-on learning. Creating spaces for interactions, peer-to-peer learning, structured mentorship and coaching, and real-world, hands-on learning is essential to the development of a well-rounded ALU graduate. All ALU students are required to undertake at least one trimester, every academic year, of skills immersion or practical experience in the form of internships, self-directed projects, community research and other hands-on experiences. This ensures that our students and graduates are equipped with the problem-solving skills and real-world experience necessary for success.
To prepare students for the rapidly evolving technological landscape, innovative education models must prioritise the development of skills that can be applied to real-world challenges. The African Leadership University (ALU) inspires students to find their purpose by exploring opportunities and solving grand challenges facing the world. ALU’s approach encourages systems thinking, problem-solving, and a deep understanding of the higher purpose of education and work. “I believe that educational institutions today need to see their role as igniting a ‘fire’ in young people, to get them to care about the world’s problems and see its great opportunities for progress. Schools should create environments that inspire students to find their purpose because they now have highly efficient tools that can enable them to follow that purpose,” concludes Fred Swaniker.
To prepare for the demands of the future, the education sector must undergo a significant transformation. It’s not just a matter of teaching different skills, but also adapting teaching methods to reflect the rapid digitization that is taking place across all industries. The African Leadership University (ALU) education model challenges students to identify the impact they want to have in the world and shape their education journey around that; because ultimately it doesn’t matter what they study, what matters is how they use the knowledge and skills gained to create a positive impact in the world.