LET us stop asking children what they want to be when they grow up.

Instead, let us ask them: What problems do they want to solve? How do they want to improve or change lives of other people? How do they want to add value to people’s lives? How do they want to make this world a better place?

Academic education must focus on creating action-oriented students and problem-solvers, not students who expect others to change their lives, and this approach to academic education will enable Zimbabwe not to have intelligent students only, but responsible citizens.

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the need for a new approach to academic education. Traditional methods of teaching and learning have often been criticised for their reliance on rote memorisation, passive listening and a focus on standardised assessments.

As the world rapidly changes due to technological advancements, globalisation and the increasing complexity of societal issues, educators are realising the importance of equipping students with a wider range of skills and knowledge to thrive in the 21st century.

One key aspect of this new approach to academic education is a shift towards student-centred learning.

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Instead of being passive recipients of information, students must be encouraged to actively participate in their own learning journey. This involves fostering critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, collaboration and effective communication skills.

By providing opportunities for students to engage in hands-on projects, discussions and real-world application of knowledge educators aim to develop a deeper understanding and a sense of ownership over their education.

Furthermore, inter-disciplinary learning is gaining traction in the new approach to academic education. Traditional academic disciplines like mathematics, science and business studies are no longer viewed as isolated subjects, but rather as interconnected areas of knowledge.

This integration helps students to see the bigger picture and make connections between different disciplines and develop holistic problem-solving skills.

Another important aspect of the new approach to academic education is the emphasis on personalised learning. By recognising that every student has unique strengths, interests and learning styles, educators strive to tailor instruction to meet individual needs.

This can be achieved through adaptive learning technologies, differentiated instruction and flexible learning environments. The new approach provides students with opportunities to pursue their passions, explore their interests and take ownership of their learning.

Moreover, the new approach to academic education places a strong emphasis on digital literacy and technological skills. In today’s digital age, it is essential for students to be proficient in using technology navigating online resources, critically evaluating information and utilising digital tools for collaboration and communication.

By integrating technology into the learning process, educators prepare students for the digital workplace and equip them with essential skills for the future. Also, the new approach to academic education acknowledges the importance of socio-emotional development.

Educators must recognise that academic success is not solely determined by cognitive abilities, but also by emotional well-being, resilience, empathy and social skills.

Creating a positive and inclusive learning environment, promoting emotional intelligence and incorporating social-emotional learning into the curriculum are all key components of this approach.

The new approach to academic education reflects the changing needs of our global society. By shifting focus from rote memorisation and standardised assessments to student-centred learning interdisciplinary education, personalised instruction, digital literacy and socio-emotional development, educators must aim to better prepare students for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

This approach recognises the importance of equipping students with a broad range of skills, knowledge and attitudes necessary for success in an ever-changing world.

 Tinoziva Shonhiwa is a writer, public speaker and life coach. He can be contacted on tinozivashonhiwa158@gmail.com