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Speech by Yannis Stournaras, Governor of the Bank of Greece, at the International School of Athens Graduation Ceremony

14/06/2017 - Speeches

                                       “Education and the 4th Industrial Revolution”

                        Speech by Yannis Stournaras, Governor of the Bank of Greece,

                                                                        at the

                                 International School of Athens Graduation Ceremony

                                                       Athens, June, 14, 2017

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Students,

Thank you for the opportunity to be with you today at this beautiful ceremony marking the graduation of the Class of 2017. I wish to congratulate the students for their achievements, their teachers and academic staff for their dedication and commitment, and, of course, the parents, family and friends that are here today to celebrate this achievement.

It is said that excellence is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives - choice not chance, determines your destiny”. Without doubt, the head, teachers and students - past and present- of the International School of Athens know that this is true.

We are indeed living in very interesting times. Humankind is on the brink of yet another industrial revolution, namely the 4th. It builds upon the 3rd industrial revolution –the Digital - which started in the 1970s and brought about, among other things, the Personal Computer, the Internet, the mobile phone, the smartphone and social media. What differentiates the impending 4th industrial revolution from all the previous, is that it will be so pervasive that it will affect all jobs, economies, and industries and will automate millions of jobs in the process. An Oxford University study predicts that around 47% of job roles today have a 75% chance of being automated in the next 20 years.

How does that affect your educational and professional lives from now on?

Steve Jobs once said that “everyone should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think”. In acquiring digital literacy, learning to code is of great importance; it helps structure thought process and improves problem solving skills. In the near future, coding will be as useful as speaking English nowadays.

While technology will continue to advance, we do not know how fast the economy will grow, what new technologies will develop, or how quickly employment will expand. Robert Solow, the great growth economist and Nobel Laureate, made an observation in 1987 that “you can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics”. This discrepancy between advances in technology and productivity growth was named the “Solow Paradox”.

Today we know that the answer and the solution to the “Solow paradox” is to empower individuals with the relevant skills for the increasingly digital and globalized world. This is key to spurring innovation, creating productivity growth as well as inclusive growth. It also corresponds to one of the main expectations of students, that is to get a good job after graduation. Success will continue to be tied to education, in part because a good education enhances one’s ability to adapt to a changing economy. This is especially important in the context of today’s innovation-driven, skills-based, globalized economies. It is encouraging that, according to the latest Eurostat report on the EU digital economy, Greece ranks 3rd in the EU-28 having the least difficulty in filling vacancies in the ICT (Information & Communications Technology) professions.

It is becoming increasingly clear that technical expertise alone is not enough to drive innovation. It needs to be coupled with entrepreneurial skills, organizational knowhow and design.

In order to make the most of the value that innovation generates, individuals need to have literacy, numeracy and problem solving skills as the main foundation skills in technology rich environments. Also they need complementary skills, attitudes and values such as openness to new experiences, adaptability, resilience, communication, teamwork and the ability to learn new skills. Such skills enable people to adapt to the impact that innovation has on their jobs, not just to cope, but also to thrive in a rapidly changing world.

As technology keeps evolving, we have to keep pace with developments and that can be achieved with lifelong learning. Resources are abundant; education can no longer be in the physical classroom, as it has also extended into the digital world, with top universities offering online courses.

So, how do we keep pace in education?

Higher education will continue to play a key role in developing the skills needed whatever the form of the labor market or the economic climate. Reforms in education and training systems, and more broadly in skill-development policies, are therefore of utmost importance to innovation.

The curriculum is at the core of higher education: in any field of study, a well-designed curriculum is an important step for skill fostering and equipping students for success in the labor market. Curricula should develop generic skills, problem-solving capacity and entrepreneurial behavior, for instance by making use of simulation to situate skills in the context of the workplace. Beyond subject-specific expertise, secondary and tertiary education institutions should also aim to develop students’ creativity, critical thinking and communication skills.

A curriculum that is developed by educational experts, with the contribution and feedback from social partners, stands a better chance to lead to strong labor outcomes. When undertaken properly, business partnerships between higher education institutions and the business sector are beneficial for all parties. Students build those skills that are needed in the economy. Companies get the skilled labor force they need. Academic staff in higher education institutions stay current with workforce practices and skill needs, and build relationships with business.

I will here add a few remarks regarding economic and financial literacy.

Financial literacy holds today a great importance in societies, particularly following the global financial crisis that had shaken our world, which is still trying to draw an exit strategy with the minimum damages. Due to this situation, the need for financial and economic education reached its climax, notably for the students who are going to choose a university specialization and their future profession. Developing human resources and endowing them with financial and economic knowledge and skills is one of the essential functions of the best available educational curricula. A better understanding of the working of the economic environment improves people’s ability to obtain the information they need and to make the best choice among different alternatives.

Increasing students’ learning outcomes in school and university is a key educational challenge. The key principle should be the creation of an environment that enables individuals to acquire appropriate skills. An innovative economy and society require the development, activation and use of skills in many disciplines and at many levels. There is no skills-related silver bullet for innovation.


A bit of advice

It is estimated that 65% of children entering grade school will ultimately do jobs that don’t exist today. You face the prospect of not just multiple jobs, but actually multiple careers over the course of your life. You will have to continuously adapt and evolve, you will have to try new experiences and take calculated risks.

So, my advice is to be flexible. The world changes too fast, and too many accidents and unpredictable events occur. It will pay, therefore, to be creative and open-minded. The human potential is there, all you have to do is unlock it.

Learning expands your horizons and enhances your perspective. It widens your world, fuels creativity and innovation, and ultimately leads to a richer and fuller life.

Your generation is the most connected generation that ever existed; it has the most access to information, good and bad. In your journey forward you should built on the ability to keep pace, adapt, shift gears often and quickly and keep current with the overflow of information.

Benjamin Franklin once said that “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest”, and I can assure you that a continuous investment in knowledge –regardless of the career path you follow by choice or chance- will pay additional and sustainable interest throughout your lives.

I cordially thank you for the opportunity to address all of you here today. My warmest congratulations on your achievement. I am confident that you have a bright future ahead of you, as you stand well prepared to embark on your journey in life.

Frey, C.B. and M.A. Osborne (2013), “The future of employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerization?”, Working Paper, Oxford Martin Programme on Technology and Employment, Oxford University.
OECD, Better Skills, Better Jobs, Better Lives: A Strategic Approach to Skills Policies. OECD (2012).
OECD, Education at a Glance 2016, OECD Indicators. OECD (2016).
OECD, Main Science and Technology Indicators. OECD (2016).
OECD, Science, Technology and Innovation Outlook: Country Profile Greece. OECD (2016)
OECD, Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2015: Innovation for growth and society. OECD (2015).
OECD, The Innovation Imperative: Contributing to Productivity, Growth and Well Being. OECD (2015).
Stournaras, Y. (2017), “Macroeconomic developments and the contributions of investment, research and innovation of the pharmaceutical sector to the new growth model”. Speech at an event organized by the Confederation of Pharmaceutical Companies in Athens, 15 March 2017.
Stournaras, Y. (2017), “Universities, Research, Innovation Entrepreneurship and Growth”. Speech at an event organized by Pro.Paideia in Athens, 23 May 2017.

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