Conversion, are we headed in the right direction?
To put it simply, conversion is the synergy among two or more integrated areas. However, we cannot expect this synergistic effect of interdisciplinary activities to arise through just technicians and scholars in specific fields. Convergence without well-prepared goals and vision, rather, often leads to confusion. Dean Lee said that the core in convergence is the intersection of mutual knowledge, the common denominator where two circles overlap.
“In the past, an expert in a field learned new fields as needed, integrated them, and then created new things. This is what we called “convergence.” Recently, as two or more different fields cooperate and convergence research becomes active, it is hard to communicate if their knowledge systems don’t overlap with each other. The language used in each field is different, and also there is a huge gap between their respective cognitive processes and problem-solving methods. Therefore, it can be said that the common denominator that understands and applies such differences is a watershed for the success of convergence. The same applies to education. When it comes to convergence education, in the past, students needed to find and take courses in different majors and also synthesize these on their own. In this regard, the fusion of students in the humanities and science track became more difficult. The biggest problem was that it was hard for each to understand the other due to their different ways of expression.”
We should start right now before it gets too late, rather than blaming others.
According to Lee, the key to convergence is making the common denominator of each larger, understanding accurately, and communicating actively. But most of all, the necessary convergence in this day is a different perspective of convergence rather than the one of mutual understanding.
“For now, no convergence in all industries is complete without information technology (IT). ‘The age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution' is leading the transition from automated manufacturing to the hyper-connected world through IT. The keyword here is 'software.' Artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), and big data are not confined to specific disciplines. Regardless of field, we need to know how to handle the information and data to cope with changes. The concept of convergent talent we are talking about is now based on problem-solving skills with IT. We need talented individuals who have not only expertise in a certain field, but capabilities to express and communicate through IT and familiarity with software convergence.”
Lee said that countries around the world have already started a silent war for nurturing software talents.
“Although Korea is an IT powerhouse, we are not providing IT education at all. The world is changing at an unprecedented pace; however, many colleges still remain in the 19th-century in terms of education. It's not limited to college. Alvin Toffler said ‘Korean students spend more than 10 hours a day in schools and hagwons to learn knowledge that won’t be necessary for the future or for jobs that won’t even exist. They are wasting precious time.’ We still have not changed at all. It is IT and information processing literacy that can make people read, write, and calculate in this age.
Sadly, however, knowledge transfer is not happening. There must be a major change in education at the level of revolution, but I think the university should start first.”
Convergence education starts with software.
Software education ultimately strives for better-thinking skills, not technical skills.
The UK and India have begun to teach software from the first grade of elementary school because nurturing talented people with just higher education is difficult. Israel and Germany have adopted software as one of the high school graduation exam subjects. The United States has proposed a primary school curriculum in a more enhanced form compared to 2016. In Japan, further progress is being made to add an ‘Information I’ subject, which covers programming, to the university entrance examination from 2024. Korea also designated software as a required subject for 6 years (17 hours) in elementary school and 3 years (34 hours) in middle school through the 2015 curriculum revision. However, Lee said, "It will be daunting to secure national competitiveness that surpasses other countries that start software education from the first grade of elementary school with 51 hours of instruction."
“In the past, even late starters could catch up if they worked hard. In the future society, however, there is no point keeping up with a front runner as the cycle of technology development, application, and disappearance becomes even more rapid. We have to adapt to a changing social system. But if we are not trained from an early age, the information gap will become extreme. Adults have a responsibility to educate children properly. Unfortunately, Korean students who decided to major in Computer Science and Engineering do not receive IT education until they graduate high school. Therefore, it is a reality that the level of their understanding of IT in the second year of college is lower than that of high school students in India or Israel. Furthermore, they have to go to graduate school to acquire what they should have learned in college but didn’t due to a lack of time.”
Also, he emphasized software education more than anyone else, but at the same time criticized the conception of software education.
“Software education is increasingly misunderstood as technical education as it is centered on the words ‘coding’ and ‘programming.’ Of course, tools are required for coding and programming, but the ultimate goal of software education is to nurture computational thinking, not engineers per se. Computational thinking, a concept proposed by Professor Jeannette M. Wing in 2006, refers to problem-solving skills based on the basic concepts and principles of computing.”
Software is not merely technology, but the best convergence created based on many people's thoughts and experiences. If convergence education aims to solve problems creatively based on logical thinking beyond the existing paradigm of cramming and only-one-correct-answer education that has been dominating Korean education, we might find a clue.