Over the first half of 2018, 21st century skills have come to the fore of the education sector debates. Identified as a series of learning dispositions that are crucial to the future success of our children, these skills include communication, collaboration, problem-solving, critical thinking, but also digital literacy and adaptability and flexibility.
I write as we head towards the business end of yet another academic year, it is somewhat scary when the realisation hits that I am also coming to end of my first two years as an international educator. With this also comes the clarity that the students whom I have been responsible for teaching over the last cycle are now also coming to the end of their courses, and the inevitable terminal exams.
The world of work is changing, as the types of jobs and industries change in response to economic, societal, global and technological developments. This means that we cannot say with any certainty what jobs today’s young people will find themselves in in five, 10 or even 20 years’ time. What we can do, however, is ensure that the younger generation are prepared for this uncertainty. By instilling them with the core, transferable skills that will be needed in the 21st century workplace, we can help them to be ready for whatever industry they choose to enter, allowing them to thrive in a changing environment.
Preparing students for the future is a hot topic right now, and with good reason. According to the World Economic Forum, 65% of children starting school today will go on to do jobs that don’t exist yet. For those of us who work in education, this presents a rather troubling dilemma: if we don’t know half of what they’ll be doing, what are we supposed to teach them?
An amazing thing happens when we expect students to be leaders. They lead. Challenging the philosophy that, by nature, there are leaders and there are followers requires educators to start early. Providing guidance and opportunity for development of leadership skills early on is essential. This is where we learn the tenets of how to get along in the world, and it’s also where “soft skills” originate that serve as building blocks of leadership.
Education systems are failing both students and businesses, claims research by Intern Tech. A shocking 48 per cent of UK graduates stated that they struggle to secure jobs in the technology and marketing industries due to lack of skills, and 93 per cent of UK tech firms claimed that the lack of skills holds their businesses back; surely this is the time for change. So before students even reach university, what more can we be doing to better prepare them for the working world and close the widening digital skills gap?
Technology has captured our collective attention as a society. Everybody needs it: individuals, companies, and schools. Definitely schools. We have to teach the kids of today how to function in, and how to lead, the workplaces of tomorrow. The recent push for students to develop digital skills has led to a mad rush to procure the latest and greatest classroom devices, including interactive whiteboards, flat panel displays, laptops, tablets and touch tables. The potential benefits of these tools are endless – when used correctly, they can cater to all students’ skills, abilities and interests.