The 4IR – Run? Hide? Teach?


I want to talk about probably the hottest topic not only in education but even in question time in parliament – the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR as it is called) and what it means for you as a teacher.

This is not about the detail of the first three revolutions. Rather it is about the changes you have to make as a teacher to be successful and help your learners be successful in the 4IR.

The first Industrial Revolution resulted in the first big factories, and factory owners realised that they needed people with some education to be able to work effectively with the new steam powered machines.

Public schools were started, and the aim was to give the learners a little knowledge – just fill up all the empty vessels with just enough information – and teach them how to behave in a factory.

This meant they had to learn to:

·        listen and obey

·        stay at their work station

·        keep up with their workmates.

As a result, teaching developed to meet those needs.

As a teacher you had to:

·        have knowledge to share out like porridge

·        be the supervisor at the front of the room to watch that the learners all did what they had to do, when they had to, and all at the same time to achieve the same goal.

Although the world has changed, and two more Industrial Revolutions (electricity and then information) have come and gone, teaching has not changed much, has it?

Many education faculties at our universities still train (think about that word) teachers in pretty much the same way as always.

But you know that things are changing.

·        You see it in the way your learners interact with knowledge. They find it online rather than wait for you and they create their own information posts on social media.

·        The resources available to use in the classroom are changing. Technology (that you neither had growing up nor learned how to use in a classroom) is entering the classroom every day.

·        The demands employers are making are different. ‘Some knowledge’ is not enough. They want knowledge workers who can think critically and creatively, collaborate, communicate and be good world citizens (the 5 Cs). And yet the curriculum and assessment requirements do not quite meet these needs.

And where does that leave you? In a classroom. with everything you were taught to believe about what it means to be a teacher and what you should do as a teacher changing without much support. That is not a comfortable place.

When you take a flight anywhere there is always a safety demonstration. You are told that in the unlikely event of a drop in cabin pressure, you are to put on your oxygen mask first. Even before helping your child or anyone else.

We are all aware of the sudden drops in cabin pressure that occur in our classrooms – too few resources, too many children to teach like you would wish, too many non-teaching things to do, too much technology without enough teacher development.

We hope that this column will become an oxygen mask for you as you deal with the challenges you face in your classroom. Each week we will offer you a quick read that aims to make your task as a teacher easier.

We will do this under some broad themes:

·        Taking care of your personal wellness so you can perform at your peak

·        Making technology use meaningful in your classroom

·        Hot topics in education

We look forward to joining you in your classroom!

Via Afrika

Chat back:

Share your thoughts and experiences with us! Anonymous contributions are welcome. We reserve the right to share appropriate content. 

WhatsApp: Send messages and voicenotes to 066 010 0325

Email: Share your story with us via email at chatback @


We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24