Guest Editors

Prof Sechaba Mahlomaholo (Walter Sisulu University)


Dr Makeresemese Qhosola (University of the Free State)


Prof Wendy Setlalentoa (Central University of Technology)

Nations, societies, and communities throughout the world are at different stages of change and transformation towards the fourth industrial revolution (Industrie 4.0). Initially, the use of water and steam power in the production of goods and services propelled the accompanying social changes into what Klaus Schwab called the first industrial revolution. Then, the advent of electrical power marked the emergence of the second industrial revolution. Furthermore, the discovery and use of digital technologies ushered in the third industrial revolution. These changes are now being overtaken by unprecedented advances of the fourth industrial revolution that merge all the above. These changes integrate the physical, the digital, and the biological worlds to impact all disciplines (including educational research), economies, and industries—and even challenge ideas about what it means to be human (World Economic Forum, n.d.; Younus, 2017).

In order to function meaningfully in the era of Industrie 4.0, nations, societies, and communitiesrequire highly educated and skilled citizens. This is due to the complex interactions between human and human, between human and machine, and between machine and machine that constitute the mode of operation during this era—for example, advances in Internet connectivity among billions of people across the globe from their different geographical settings. These people are able to connect simultaneously to one another as they pursue their different interests. It is about massive storage, retrieval, and transmission of data across vast physical spaces and distances at unimaginable speeds. No wonder Industrie 4.0 is also known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) because objects and services are now created and transported with the same speed across vast distances. Other examples of Industrie 4.0 or IIoT include achievements in the creation and use of artificial intelligence, automatons, robotics, and drones in advancing human life—to mention a few.

While these industrial transformations and changes hold a lot of promise for the improvement of human life, there are also fears of their negative, unintended outcomes as well. Among others, there are challenges due to the deepening of social inequalities. This results from the increase in the levels of unemployment and, hence, poverty among the uneducated and unskilled sections of the population. This social class, more than any other, may not meet the demands of the abovementioned complex technological contexts. Current Industrie 4.0 requires fewer machine operators and more strategic thinkers and programmers. Uzair Younus (2017) argued that “basic reading and writing skills will not be enough: the workforce of the fourth industrial revolution must know how to write and read computer code and work in conjunction with sophisticated hardware and software” (para. 12).

In the context of the above, this special issue calls for original research papers in line with the journal’s approach, which focuses on educational research for social change. These papers should help in the understanding of how sustainable learning environments can be created so that humanity can take full advantage of the advances of Industrie 4.0 while, at the same time, responding meaningfully to the socioeconomic challenges thereof. The special issue will accept papers that link changes towards Industrie 4.0 directly to educational research for social change from a methodological, theoretical, or contextual perspective. This link should happen throughout the article, not just in a sentence in the introduction and conclusion.

Accepted papers will reflect original, integrated, and unpublished conceptual or empirical research on the following questions:

In responding to the above questions, papers should make original contributions to the theories and practices of educational research for social change through new ways of understanding critical concepts constituting Industrie 4.0. These should be related to the creation of sustainable learning environments. Other contributions could be in the form of papers exploring new methodologies for researching these concepts.

Extended abstracts (see ersc website for guidelines: together with the article title, author names, and contact details, should be submitted as an e-mail attachment to copied in to


World Economic Forum. (n.d.). The fourth industrial revolution [Review of the book The fourth industrial revolution, by K. Schwab]. Retrieved from

Younus, A. (2017, May 9). Fourth industrial revolution. Dawn. Retrieved from


Potential authors should consult the Educational Research for Social Change information for authors for style guide information