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Educating the Next Generation for a Sustainable Future

Education is not just a fundamental right for everyone: it’s also a pathway to a better quality of life, playing an instrumental role in attaining many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Through sharing skills such as cybersecurity, businesses can spread knowledge and help to shape more resilient, informed future global citizens.

01 September 2021 • 4 min read

Photograph: Edwin Andrade/Unsplash

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent a call to action for everyone, with quality education not only a goal itself but also an enabler to achieve others. As pioneers of new and breakthrough technologies, innovative companies play a crucial role in levelling the playing field and improving access to education for all.

There are myriad ways that organisations, large and small, can help achieve the SDGs. Technology companies, for example, support the equitable distribution of (and access to) high-quality education, not only as the result of product innovation or improvement but through experience, knowledge and sharing of skills.

Every child receiving a quality education and the tools to develop to their own full potential, is primed to become a conscientious adult, ready to give back to their communities.

Sustainable development, and the organisational transformation required to achieve it, is by its nature forward-looking. By valuing the needs of future generations, models can be put in place to protect our precious and finite natural resources, as well as promote social and economic equality.

The foundation for change

Education is a fundamental right for everyone. It’s also a pathway to a better quality of life. Moreover, it’s instrumental in attaining many other SDGs. Every child receiving the tools to develop to their full potential is primed to become a conscientious adult, ready to give back to their communities.

Amongst the expected outcomes of the quality education SDG:

  • A higher number of young people and adults with professional skills suitable for employment and entrepreneurship;

  • Elimination of gender inequalities in education and equal access to all levels of education for the most vulnerable populations;

  • Better literacy and numeracy;

  • Deeper and more widespread understanding of sustainable development, human rights, a culture of non-violence and peace, cultural diversity and global citizenship.

Artificial intelligence mechanisms support an adaptive instruction approach, capable of modifying its patterns according to students’ responses, and any learning difficulties. This adaptation and provision for neurodiversity is crucial for equitable education.

Arguably, education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world; with the right grounding in the facts and the values of our world, every individual has the capacity to interpret – and apply real-world solutions for – the true challenges of our time.

Technology’s part in a sustainable and equitable future

Information technology is a true driving force supporting the sustainability goals in education. Advancements in technology and connectivity enable wider access to quality education for millions who would be otherwise left behind. And areas such as artificial intelligence, big data and social media are completely transforming the methods and strategies of teaching and learning.

A big shift from conventional education is that learning is becoming problem-based rather than curriculum-based. Artificial intelligence mechanisms support an adaptive instruction approach, capable of modifying its patterns according to students’ responses and adjust for any learning difficulties. This adaptation and provision for neurodiversity is crucial for equitable education.

With new visualisation and virtualisation technologies, new learning spaces can be created, offering ubiquitous opportunities for training and development – individuals can learn from anywhere.

To support a cooperative and social learning experience, which builds interpersonal as well as technical and creative skills, collaboration and social media tools are opening up new avenues.

Lastly, digital technologies allow better tracking and monitoring of students’ learning progress as well as any problems or challenges they encounter. However, this aspect poses serious issues related to data privacy and requires a robust governance model to ensure rights are always protected.

First of all, companies should promote the accessibility of new technologies to everyone, ensuring they’re doing everything in their power to redress the digital divide.

From this perspective, it becomes clear that both teachers and learners need to get familiar with, and interact safely and responsibly with, the new technologies. Students must be equipped with skills and competencies that will make them future-ready digital citizens and become aware of the responsibilities and civic duties associated with digital citizenship.

How companies facilitate progress

While these are common goals that should concern all of society, companies, particularly global tech companies that promote innovation and digital transformation, share a great responsibility towards the communities in which they operate.

  • First of all, companies should promote the accessibility of new technologies to everyone, ensuring they’re doing everything in their power to redress the digital divide. Digitalisation is a significant enabler for quality education, and lack of access to technology will contribute to even wider inequality.

  • To promote overall equality, for example, in eliminating prejudices, companies should embrace, support and champion the responsible development of digital learning platforms. In particular, when considering artificial intelligence in education, issues of data privacy and biased algorithms must be carefully and systematically addressed on an ongoing basis.

  • Knowledge within the company and of individual employees is unique and powerful (for example, in their expertise of advanced and breakthrough digital tools). By sharing this knowledge and experience with their own communities, both the individual and the organisation can positively and impactfully contribute to sustainable development.

Schools are driving forces in stimulating ideas to create a better world. Schoolchildren are becoming fluent in digital citizenship and will be the digital leaders of a better and more sustainable future. At NTT DATA, we strongly believe in this concept, having designed and launched several initiatives to collaborate with educational institutions to help students gain a better understanding of how technologies operate, including their social and psychological effects.

For example, NTT DATA Coding at School promotes a simple approach to code development in primary schools. It favours the development of computational thinking and a problem-solving attitude, demonstrating to young students how a computer works and how to make it work for us – not just how to use a computer. We recognise how important it is to ensure the next generation is informed about the safe use of, and interaction with, new technologies.

Learning online offers huge benefits. Pre-adolescent children have an innate talent in using digital devices; however, there is often a blindspot to potential risks. With an unprecedented number of children using online applications due to Covid-19, cybersecurity has become more important than ever. Our Security Ninja initiative (where our security experts educate children and their families about the main risks of, for example, social media, chats and online games) was born because we understand that our children need more than technical security controls to stay safe online: we must teach them the right behaviours, as well as the basic principles of cybersecurity.

Inclusive, quality education is vital to spread, promote and prolong wellbeing and prosperity. With so many opportunities to develop new, more connected, accessible and tailored ways of learning, innovation in technology is one of the most important enabling factors.

Individuals and institutions, charities and commercial organisations – everyone should understand the potential of digital tech and how to exploit it for the betterment of all.  Companies play a significant role: through their experience, skills and activities, businesses can spread knowledge and help to shape more resilient, informed future global citizens.

Artificial intelligence Education ESG Security Social impact

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