by Bharat Damani
The current students or the Gen-Z has grown up with the internet and a variety of electronic gadgets which provide instant access to the world. They are digital natives who spend more time on electronic devices and less time reading books or performing physical activity. Consequently, this has resulted in the Gen-Z having a short attention span and who find it difficult to do mundane, routine, monotonous activity. They may not have the patience to be diligent, to persevere and perform in a brick-and-mortar setting. They want variety, change, creativity, and digital action to stimulate their mind. Their world is a ‘click and get it done’ world, a world of convenience, a world which responds to their beck and call.
Studies show that Gen-Z wants to pursue a less conventional path, do not mind taking a drop year or two and wish to pursue their dreams, possibly by setting up their own ventures. They want to live a purposeful life, do something for the planet and take control of their lives instead of being loyal to an enterprise which could fire you, like they did to some of their parents, once the utility diminished.
Education too has become digitized. Information is available on the internet in varied forms on every minute topic one can imagine. Google helps in quick search and selection for students to optimize their time and efforts. With AI enabled tools, complete answers to questions and assignments are ready in a few clicks. With reduced attention span, lack of reading habit and the disconnect with no real need to understand every aspect of a subject, the student finds it natural and convenient to use the digital tools to comply with the requirements of the conventional education system, one with which they do not seem to connect well.
Modern education needs to recognize the changing trends and the characteristics of Gen-Z. It must create shorter and more focused programs of a skill or vocational nature. It must also develop newer and more practical pedagogies. There has been much talk of moving away from pedagogical learning to andragogical and heutagogical modes of learning. This requirement is further accentuated for Gen-Z and the digital world.
Pedagogy is focused on learning the content. Andragogy and heutagogy emphasize on experiential and self-paced learning in a manner students learn what is relevant for them. Learning by doing or by a discovery process under the guidance of a facilitator makes education exciting. The focus is on the process of learning as opposed to the content of learning.
Educators are now focusing on developing skills for independent and critical thinking. The convenient habit of copy-and-paste must be addressed with interventions to make students pause to think, debate, and evaluate what is written. The ability to question the status-quo enables students to look at a situation differently and come up with fundamental questions that can challenge the conventional and generate a creative outlook that could later lead to an entrepreneurial disruption.
Another technique is to cultivate problem solving skills. Students are given a situation or exposed to an environment where problems are described or can be identified by interaction or exploration. They are then challenged to suggest and create simple, implementable initiatives which can address the identified problem. This can be supplemented by inculcating elements of empathy by a field visit to varied locations, especially the interiors of the country. A design thinking approach can be adopted with the field exercise to capture the empathy and solution co-creation elements to make it realistic. Empathy can also be indoctrinated using simulation games like RealLivesto leverage a Gen-Z trait of digital engagement.
The use of analytics in Gen-Z increased with social media. The analytical skill can be further cultivated by encouraging students to use information and data-based analytics for decision making. The decision requirement can be broken into important measurable parameters and by using information and data, matrices can be created to convert the thoughts into an objective decision table. Techniques like the analytic hierarchy process (AHP) could then be used.
The social media skills work well as students. However, these need to be combined with business elements to generate meaningful results and outcomes. These are measured by concrete revenue and not just the number of likes or followers. Live projects with companies who struggle with marketing and want to adopt the digital platforms can be offered to the students. Students with their nocturnal schedules can work wonders with companies without having to attend office, except for a brief (which can also be conducted online).
All these innovative and entrepreneurial initiatives do not really require any academic pre-requisites. The skills are innate in Gen-Z. All it requires is a platform of opportunity within the education system and which can be provided right from the secondary school stage. Some schools have already adopted these approaches with telling effect.
Gen-Z is born with the internet and has grown in the digital, integrated world. The freedom to explore without hindrance is facilitated by the electronic gadgets at their disposal. Global integration and exposure make Gen-Z aware of the contemporary strides across the world. The ease with which DIY tools are available and can be used for creative engagement make the process fun and exciting, generating immediate results and gratification. Creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial inclination are inborn in Gen-Z, they only need to be nurtured using the andragogical and heutagogical approaches to learning.
by Bharat Damani, PhD, Associate Professor, Entrepreneurship at FLAME University, Pune.
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