18.02.2021 Speech

Creativity And Innovation In Education In A Disrupted World

A Speech Delivered By Mr. Joel Kofi Degue During The Launching Of His Three Books On Sunday January 31, 2021 At Bishop Jones Ame Zion Church Auditorium, Vui-Keta
By Joel Degue
Creativity And Innovation In Education In A Disrupted World
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“A country’s competitiveness starts not on the factory floor or in the engineering lab. It starts in the classroom.” Lee Iacocca, former Ford Manager and later Chrysler President.

The world is becoming a small place, a very competitive place. The 20th Century saw what was called knowledge explosion. The 21st Century will be very brutal. The signs are already on the wall for all of us to see, except for those who refuse to see. Will your child have the skill set to compete and fit into that place called “tomorrow?”

Life is a creative training. As the world rapidly changes, so are the demands placed on our children’s education. If they are to meet those demands and enjoy inspired lives and make meaningful contributions to societies, then, they must be made ready through quality education.

Today, the old school rules and teaching methodologies no longer apply. The three Rs (Reading, wRriting and aRithmetic) while skill relevant, no longer guarantee entry into the middle class. The college degree once so desirable only gets a foot in the door. Today, there is an urgent call to make children very creative, innovative, intuitive and imaginative in order to make them competitive and fit into the global order. The global competition is higher now than ever. Yes, you cannot teach today the same way you did yesterday to prepare students for a great and challenging tomorrow. The rules have all changed now and we must surely change our educational systems.

"If we teach today’s children as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow." John Dewey.


“The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” Abraham Lincoln.

Don’t deny your children an opportunity of a lifetime. Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders. Those in school today are surely going to be tomorrow’s human capital for the nation. Therefore, what we do to them and for them today is going to affect every aspect of the country's tomorrow. That is the very reason why we need to give today’s children the type of education that will make them fit for tomorrow’s challenges. That is why we need different approaches and methodologies in teaching today’s children in our schools. Unfortunately, much has not changed in pedagogy today. But, thank God we have found a way, a solution. It is UCMAS Education approach, the modern revolutionary approach.


"The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but a wood that needs igniting." Plutarch.

What is your image of education in the 21st century? How would you like education to be in this century? My answer will not be traditional or conventional, but rather controversial.

When talking about 21st century education, two countries readily come to mind: Singapore and Finland. The reasons are too many and this occasion will not suffice us to enumerate them. But, for the benefit of the doubt, I would just mention these three international assessments: PISA (Programme for International Students Assessment), TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies), PIRLS (Progress In Reading and Literacy Survey) whose results have always placed these countries among the top five since the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) started these assessments in the year 2000.

My definition of education in this century is ICT- Innovative Creative Teaching. It is based on 7 Cs.

  1. Choice: Students must choose what they want to learn out of a set number of subjects. No child should be forced to study a subject they are not at ease to study. Ample choice options of subjects should be provided. Children should be examined only on subjects they themselves have chosen to study. Children are born differently and uniquely. Hope you know how our current system is and works. It is outmoded and outdated.

“Good pedagogy must place the child in situations in which he can have real life experiences. Language helps us to anticipate those situations.” Jean Piaget

  • Collaboration: Students must work in small groups based on their choices of subjects. There should not be the spirit of competition but rather co-operation, teamwork, group work and the "we" spirit. No ranking of the class or assignment or project as pertains in our current system. It is demotivating and does not encourage collaboration and togetherness.
  • “When you teach a child something, you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself.” Jean Piaget

  • Communication: Students are allowed to freely express their thoughts and ideas on any topic as they think freely without rejection, i.e., originating their own concepts and notions, thereby creating new knowledge. They must be allowed to talk freely in class, move about, consult with friends and others and teachers without any form of restriction. Only such an environment is conducive and congenial for learning in this century.
  • “Intelligence is what you use when you do not know what to do.” Jean Piaget

  • Creativity or Creative Spirit: Children are born creative, imaginative, innovative, intuitive, etc., but we kill these natural, latent potentials in them using a pre-industrial, obsolete, archaic, straight jacket, one-size-fits-all educational system, which is now only good for the garbage. We must allow the children to EXPLORE their own world and come out with creative ideas, thoughts, concepts, notions and solutions for the problems of the 21st century. We must allow the natural creative powers in our children to burst open through education that meets such needs. The world is now creative and innovative.
  • “The main goal of education in schools should be the creation of men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done. Men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers. People who can be critical, validating, and not necessarily accepting, everything that is offered to them.” Jean Piaget.

  • Critical Thinking: Students are allowed to probe, investigate, research, question status quo, innovate and proffer solutions to problems around them and in society. They must not be consumers of old facts, concepts, notions, theories, but rather, creators of the new. By so doing, they will be adding new knowledge to existing stock of knowledge.
  • The second objective of education is to train minds to be critical. To train them to verify and not necessarily accept everything that they receive. The great danger today are the topics, collective opinions, and tendencies that already exist. We have to be able to challenge these ideas and distinguish between what is right and what is not.Jean Piaget.

  • Caring: Teachers must be well trained, love the subject they are facilitating - not teaching, but coaching, mentoring, guiding, directing, etc. They must be passionate about the subjects they are handling. Above all, they must love the children, motivate them, inspire them on, ignite the love to learn in them, and paint a great future for them. Teachers must make the classroom environment and ambiance very friendly and welcoming to make children love coming to school and loving learning. The teacher must build rapport and bonding amongst and between the children and themselves. They must leave a lingering experience on the minds of their students throughout their adult life. In short, teachers must be loving, caring, warm and passionate about both their subjects and their students.
  • Confidence: We must stop playing the ostrich and be serious and call a spade a spade. The right people are not at the forefront of this war called education. Many people don't believe in the educational system as it is now. Many people have lost confidence in this national tool for development. Politicization of such a great national tool can be more harmful than we think. National education must be something everyone believes in and students encouraged to be serious about. Our students must finish school being confident about what they went in to study and be ready to match their peers everywhere in the world. That should be another goal of education.
  • The main goal of education is to create people who are capable of innovating, and not simply repeating what other generations have contributed. It is to produce people who are creators, inventors and discoverers. The second goal of education is to train minds to be critical, and to verify and not necessarily accept everything that they receive (Piaget, 1985).

    Going through Piaget’s theories would allow any teacher to see how the minds of their students are evolving and working. The central idea of ​​Piaget’s theory is that knowledge is not a copy of reality, but is the product of a person’s interaction with his environment. This knowledge, therefore, will always be individual and distinct from any other knowledge that exists.

    Not until we face these realities in our educational system, we should totally forget it. Let me end this by quoting Albert Einstein who once said:

    "Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think. "

    Oh yes, that is what our people are afraid of and we keep producing mediocre and below average human resource in Ghana in particular and Africa as a whole; year in year out with its attendant results and socioeconomic outcomes. As we progress in this century, which educational system or which pedagogical approach should we use? This dilemma has remained unanswered even in this 21st century.


    I am longing to see a change in educational systems. I want a paradigm shift in education. I want to see uniqueness in national education of various countries or regions. I want to see educational systems that answer well the demands of the 21st Century and solve the local problems of the various countries and the global problems of the world. This bold step must be taken for the educational miracle to happen as in Singapore and Finland. That is the education that is needed in the 21st century.


    As a student of psychology, I wonder what "scripts" our leaders are writing and printing on the mind of this current generation that will start playing out in the next five to ten years to come.

    I'm pained every day when I see such things happening to our children before my very eyes, twenty one years down the line into the 21st century.

    Our peers, i.e., other sister countries, are going to space, using Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM), Industrial Revolution 4.0, robotics, Big Data Science, Data Analytics, Blockchain Technology, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Design Thinking/Co-designing, Augmented/Virtual Reality, Coding and Sequential Learning, Computer Programming, Cloud Computing, Gamification, Open Badges, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) and other high technologies.

    Where is Ghana on all the above points? Your guess is as true as mine. COVID-19 came uninvited and exposed our educational system and its unpreparedness and lack of robustness in the mist of crises. You are all living witnesses.

    For example, under the Clinton's Presidency, Chinese domination of the PHD programmes in the US universities became a national security issue. The USA Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) wanted to find out why such a pronounced interest in STEAM courses in America by Chinese students. Chinese kids are sent in droves to study unique courses like artificial intelligence, information systems, system science, robotic engineering, systems engineering in American top Ivy League schools. Surprisingly this is a deliberate state policy. You’d never see a Chinese student on scholarship studying arts, social sciences or religion.

    They will research, defend and return to China and set up businesses in ICT and High Tech to rival American businesses and efforts. Today, we see the results: HUAWEI, TENCENT, XIAOMI, BADU, etc., companies that did not exist about 15 to 20 years ago. That’s the power of creative disruption - creativity and innovation.


    "The battles of this century will not be fought on the power of natural resources, but rather they will be fought and won on the power of creative ideas, skilled human resources, a knowledge economy and a young, creative, innovative and imaginative population, ready to challenge the status quo." Joel Kofi Degue.

    Africa's total GDP as at the end of 2019 was $ 2.58 trillion (nominal) and $ 6.36 trillion (PPP) growing at about 3.7% annually, representing a GDP per capita of $ 1,970. Africa's total population stands currently at about 1.307 billion people, lower than China with 1.4 billion people. Yet, China is the second largest economy with a total GDP of about $ 15 trillion, making a GDP per Capita of over $ 10,000. Wow! Remember, China was a very poor country in 1978! But today, they have a strong High Tech economy with yet still a powerful agro-industry not seen anywhere in the entire Africa. China is today a net exporter of High Tech. Here lies the power of creativity and innovation in a disrupted world.

    Today, Africa's main exports are still the traditional primary products like gold, diamond, bauxite, manganese, iron ore, platinum, cobalt, copper, cocoa, coffee, timber, crude oil and gas, and other precious minerals and rare earths, etc. This is what Africa has been doing for the past 200 years and at least the past 60 years of independence. Africa is not yet an exporter or transferor of technology.

    But the fact is that these things cannot help Africa, else they would have helped already. Right? There is, therefore, the urgent need for economic paradigm shifts and turnarounds. Since Adam Smith through the classical, neoclassical, liberal and neoliberal economic theories, no development magic has happened in Africa. Do you think the current status quo can bring us to our economic Eldorado? Your answer is as good as mine.

    Albert Einstein once said something and I would like to paraphrase here: You cannot be doing the same thing over and over and expect different results; that’s insanity.

    But look at this! Towards the end of the 20th century something started happening. It's called ICT- Information and Communications Technologies, a driving force, a catalyst, a game changer, a condition sine qua non. A cursory survey of a few of such companies will drive home what I am trying to put across.

    I will use this acronym for them: G-MAFIA-BATH-X. I will define them and what their annual revenues were as at the end of 2019.

    1. Google: $ 160.7 billion

    2. Microsoft: $ 125.8 billion

    3. Amazon: $ 280.5 billion

    4. Facebook: $ 70.7 billion

    5. IBM: $ 77.1 billion

    6. Apple: $ 260.2 billion

    7. Badu: $ 16.0 billion

    8. Alibaba: $ 72.0 billion

    9. Tencent: $ 54.0 billion

    10. Huawei: $ 26.0 billion

    11. Xiaomi: $ 123.0 billion

    Total Revenues: $ 1.166 trillion.

    Hummm! These 11 companies which were created just at the turn of the last century, are making about 45% of the GDP of the entire African continent. Among those companies, there is none that is African, but five are Chinese. Wow! What a sorry and pitiable state of Africa.

    In a century where the whole world is leapfrogging Africa is still crawling. While countries have almost made their economies high tech, and knowledge based through creativity, innovation, invention, entrepreneurship, etc., Africa is still vaunting its primary commodities whose prices are determined in London, New York and Beijing.

    It's about time Africa changed its education model in order to change its economy from agriculture-dependent to knowledge-based like other Asian Tigers. This is the new trend for the past forty to fifty years, since the revolution started in the sixties.

    Africa must rise up and take its rightful position in the 21st century through quality and relevant education. This is the century of novel ideas, creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship, information and communications technologies. The time is now.


    According to a report published by Dell Technologies and authored by the Institute For The Future (IFTF) and a panel of 20 tech, business and academic experts from around the world, it is estimated that 85 per cent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven't even been invented yet.

    "The pace of change will be so rapid that people will learn 'in the moment' using new technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality. The ability to gain new knowledge will be more valuable than the knowledge itself," Dell Technologies Report said. In other words the message is loud and clear: get ready for a lifetime of skills training and retraining, but not in the ‘institutional’ sense as we know it now, but in ‘real time’ and on a ‘need to know’ basis that is driven by a machine learning such as Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Based Learning Platform, Internet of Things.

    An interesting point I thought to myself, so I did a bit of my own research to put things in perspective and searched for jobs that are here today but didn’t exist 12 to 15 years ago, and to my surprise I came across a few that I’m sure didn’t show up on anybody’s radar back around 2005. Not even the experts from back then could have imagined that jobs like Mobile App Developers, Data Scientists, Business Intelligence Analyst, Cloud Computing Specialists and Blockchain Engineers, etc., would be in demand today. For your amusement and tickling, I have compiled the table below which lists some of the past, present and future jobs and positions and hope it stimulates some discussion to answer the question, how do we prepare for jobs that don’t exist yet? Especially, when things are changing so fast through creative disruption in an already disrupted world by COVID-19, unemployment galore and climate change.


    “Where are the jobs going to be in the future?

    Preparing for a job that doesn’t exist yet is compounded by the fact that students entering a 4 year engineering program in 2021 may not have the skills that industry is looking for when they graduate in 2025. For example, how many students who started in 2016 chose a career path that would train them to become a Blockchain Engineer today? The demand for Blockchain Engineers has increased by 400 percent since late 2017 according to Hired, a firm that helps clients recruit tech candidates. They also claim that the salary for a Blockchain Engineer is in the range of $150,000 to $175,000 per year, the same as what an Artificial Intelligence/Data Scientists earns today.

    So what skills does a Blockchain Engineer need and where does one go to learn them? According to the experts in this space, the Blockchain Engineer needs to be comfortable with learning as they go since this is a new and emerging field with very little formal training around; they must have the ability of ‘adopting a new mindset’ which focuses on efficiency, scalability, and distributed computing; and they must understand that there is more to just learning another programming language. A Blockchain Engineer will need to be a hybrid of a junior economist, an API developer, a data geek and auditor. The experts also point out that people who consider entering this space must have good problem solving skills and the ability to discover and process information on the fly as the pace of change in Blockchain technologies is really fast and one has to be agile and quick to adapt.

    Blockchain, Data Science, Robotics, Nanotechnology, and Artificial Intelligence are very new. There are little or no formal degree programmes yet in most universities across the world, especially in Africa. However, by 2030, I am quite sure these fields alone will create many of the jobs we have yet to imagine. Recognizing the rapid change and digital disruption that Blockchain is causing, George Brown College's School of Computer Technology is the first Canadian college to offer a certificate in Blockchain Development. This unique programme focuses on designing and implementing decentralized applications by leveraging Blockchain Technology. The three-semester program is designed to also thoroughly cover full stack development to give students all the tools they need to succeed in this emerging and exciting field.

    The Blockchain Engineer is what is needed in this rapidly changing Application Programming Interfaces (API) driven economy. In the short term we will need people that can integrate anything with everything and make the human-to-machine and the machine-to-human digital experience transparent; and in the long term we will need visionaries that can carve the path into the brave new world and make this a truly connected planet. Folks, are you ready?


    In his book, Critical path, Buckminster Fuller (Fuller 1981), American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor, and futurist, created the ‘knowledge doubling curve’. He noticed that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century and by the end of World War II, knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Some years later a report published by IBM anecdotally added to Fuller’s theory and predicted by 2020 knowledge would double every year, and as we speak, knowledge is doubling every 12 hours fuelled by the Internet of Things (Schilling 2013), Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Nanotechnology, scientific and technological inventions and discoveries and knowledge sharing opportunities, and all this driven by Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). What a challenge! The world has indeed been disrupted.

    A new world, therefore, needs a new thinking, new paradigms, new sets of skills and careers. Skills in fields such as AI, Nanotech, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Data Science, 3D Tech, Cloud Computing and a host of other fields call for real introspection and retrospection. New careers should be able to provide solutions to most of the world’s most pressing and threatening problems such as incurable diseases like HIV/AIDS, Cancers, Parkinson disease, Alzheimer disease, COVID-19, ancient diseases like malaria, glaucoma, lifestyle diseases like obesity, High Blood Pressure, Cardio Vascular Disease/Stroke, climate change, global warming, environmental pollution, child malnutrition, sustainable resource governance, sustainable agriculture, soil loss and degradation, deforestation renewable energy, plastic menace, sustainable city and urban waste management, streetism, gangsterism, child labour, etc.

    The 21st century education should be able to train people who are creators, innovators, inventors, originators of novel things to be able to provide solutions to crucial world problems. These people so produced should be people who will develop and create applications and software that can be and also provide solutions to how teachers can teach and learners can learn very fast, effectively and efficiently. How to detect and diagnose diseases and prescribe effective medication to them. How to know exactly where schools of fishes are in the seas for the fishermen to move straight there and fish them in time. When can farmers plant and what crops to plant in a particular moment of the year and what types and quantity of fertilizers to apply in order to have the best harvest.

    The purpose of education in the 21st century is no longer to train people to work with government institutions, private sector institutions such as banks, insurance companies, manufacturing companies, World Bank, IMF, IFC, WHO, UNESCO, UNDP, UNIDO, ECOWAS, AFRICAN UNION, multinationals, etc., make big money, build big houses, raise a beautiful family, live and die. No! Despite that these all are good, genuine and legitimate, they seem not to hold a strong foot on the ladder in the 21st century. There is a great need to diversify in skills and knowledge for true solutions to world’s most pressing and crucial problems. The following prove the point.

    A few years ago, Harvard Business Review published an important and interesting article about talent acquisition: 21st Century Talent Spotting by Claudio Fernandez-Araoz. The article contained valuable research about the nature of potential and the need to hire for potential not education or certificate alone:

    The Research points to five markers of potential: a strong motivation to excel in the pursuit of challenging goals combined with the humility to put the group ahead of individual needs; an insatiable curiosity to explore new ideas and avenues; keen insight into connections that others don’t see; a strong engagement with work and people; and the determination to overcome obstacles


    Indeed, creativity and innovation and strategic thinking and planning hold the key to finding better, long-lasting and impactful solutions to the crucial problems in a disrupted world. Yes, the post COVID-19 type of education should be totally different, STEAM based in order to become the panacea to critical and crucial global problems in a world that has undergone and still undergoing great disruption in all aspects and facets of life. The earlier we embrace these facts, the better for us as a people. We cannot re-invent the wheel.

    “The illiterates of the 21st century are not those who cannot read and write. But those who refuse to learn, unlearn and relearn.” Alvin Toffler.

    Thank you for your attention.

    Joel Degue

    Tel. : 0242501638

    e-mail: [email protected]

    Bibliography :


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