Surge in demand for digital skills, says education minister

Azlan Othman

In light of the recent global crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of digital technologies has now shifted tremendously, and the demand for digital skills has surged, more so in some sectors.

This was said by Minister of Education Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hamzah bin Haji Sulaiman during his opening keynote address at the ASEAN Business and Investment Roundtables: Skills for a Digital Age hosted by the Brunei ASEAN Business Advisory Council (BAC) via online yesterday.

The minister said, “However, this dramatic increase in innovation and adoption of digital solutions should not take place at the expense of ethical considerations. With the ongoing moral and public debates evolving the use of digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics in our daily activities, matters such as liability, accountability, privacy, property and autonomy among which convey adverse insinuations, such as on automatic data collection, algorithms used for predicting and profiling as well as technologies used for surveillance, has become a major public concern.

“Therefore, a holistic approach should be taken to ensure the right ethical and moral principles are instilled in the students at all levels of education.

“In a time when we are less clear on specific skills tomorrow’s workers will require digital ethics, and values has become our guiding principle to develop and implement digital technologies in a responsible manner. In the context of the Sultanate, these values and principles are embedded in the Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) philosophy,” said Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hamzah.

Minister of Education Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Hamzah bin Haji Sulaiman at the virtual event. PHOTO: AZLAN OTHMAN

The minister continued, “Equipping the society for a digital future relies on the development of the younger generation with relevant skills and knowledge in this digital era. As technology is just the enabler, it is crucial that the society, in particular the students, are well equipped with relevant 21st Century skills, knowledge and competencies by focussing on the 6Cs – critical thinking; collaboration; communication; creativity; cultural awareness; and character education. These will serve as the foundation to respond to the needs of Fourth Industrial Revolution and Society 5.0, where the demand for technological, social and emotional as well as higher cognitive skills will grow.

“As such, the 21st Century skills are now becoming as important as literacy and numeracy. Development of these soft skills should start from primary and secondary schools where agility in learning, personalisation, interpersonal and the use of education technology are crucial for students to become better innovators, creators, adaptors, and independent lifelong learners.

“In the ASEAN Work Plan on Education 2021-2025, we are emphasising on the promotion of 21st Century skills as we work towards enhancing the skills set competencies and knowledge of ASEAN students.”

“With such skills expected to be taught in schools, it is imperative for the educators to be trained with the right digital and 21st Century pedagogical competencies to deliver the skills and knowledge,” said the minister.

He added, “I am delighted to share that under the ASEAN Plus Three Plan of Action on Education 2018 – 2025, the Ministry of Education (MoE) is currently working with South Korea to develope professional development courses for teachers on 21st Century skills.

“This signifies the commitment towards human resources development at national and ASEAN level, as we believe that engagements at regional and international level could serve as driving forces for a continuous progress in human resource development.

“At higher education level, a lot of efforts are being directed to prepare and provide educational programmes to prepare the students for the Fourth Industrial Revolution era. Programmes such as data analytics, artificial intelligence, robotics and others are designed to meet the growing demand of various industries and services. These programmes can be for skilling, upskilling or reskilling of our human capital in the digital age.”