Mastering the key skills for thriving in the modern world

Rosemary Dewan

Rosemary Dewan is the CEO of the Human Values Foundation which promotes the importance of teaching human values in schools. Since 1995 it has been providing practical, cross-curricular programmes for personal development and behaviour management, integrating SMSC, PSHE education, Citizenship, PLTS and SEAL.

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Image credit: Pxhere. Image credit: Pxhere.

There is an abundance of initiatives helping to ensure that young citizens-in-the-making go on to a future beneficial for all living things. To help identify some of the exciting avenues that are opening up, here is a table with nine facets of education, and some critical thinking prompts, that could typify what forward-thinkers have been endeavouring to bring to fruition:

1. History

The education landscape has been in a state of flux for decades, but in-line with our rapidly changing world, the sector has recently been experiencing significant turbulence with what some might consider ‘permanent white water’. While the ‘talk and chalk’ days are over, there is still an eagerness to deliver an excellent, all-round education. Throughout the world there are movements exploring and implementing contemporary educational ideas that will benefit all young people, whatever their innate abilities and social backgrounds.



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2. Children

Many young children and adolescents see a world of opportunity and choice ahead of them. They have voices and expect their schools and teachers to not fulfil dreams of generations past, but rather to help them be future-ready. They are calling for relevant, expansive educational approaches that take into account their own styles, paces and preferences, so that they will be able to use their energy and talents to lead fulfilling lives and, if they so choose, compete in the global economy.


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3. Learning

As ever, young people have complex and diverse needs that present challenges to educators. Many are struggling with modern pressures, including establishing their own identities, and stress associated with achievement expectations, seemingly often emphasised via social media, isolation and behaviour issues. Indicators suggest that their vision of education is for:

    • More of a focus on relevance.
    • Being supported by learning mentors.
    • Having the capacity to form positive relationships.
    • Having a sense of belonging.
    • Being part of a community.

They appreciate the change in direction towards a more rounded, holistic education that some educational institutions now offer. Such courses provide a blend of rigorous academic challenges and content balanced with the space to develop holistically, including social and emotional skills, morality and values literacy needed for achieving and enjoying worthwhile, fulfilling lives.


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4. Teaching

It can be hard for teachers, including those involved in their initial training and continuing professional development, to keep pace with the scale of challenges facing them. It’s often difficult to embrace universally-available digital tools and resources, not to mention the very different expectations of the emerging generation compared with previous generations. Many former headteachers are taking on consultancy roles, sharing their passion, wisdom and experience. As coaches, they are promoting and helping teachers to cultivate and operate in supportive environments, and raising awareness of what it is to be a role model. In addition to their subject expertise, teachers - clear about their core values and prioritising their own wellbeing - are demonstrating to learners, who are constantly watching them, how to master a range of key skills so as to thrive in the modern world.


World Economic ForumWhat are the 21st-century skills every student needs?

5. Curriculum

What are the essential skills for life in the 21st century? What does the emerging generation really need to know? What do school-aged learners need to understand? Is the current system meeting expectations, or is it too narrow? Alongside literacy and numeracy competencies, are young citizens gaining mindsets, knowledge and skillsets that make them feel well-informed? Can they flourish, achieve and grow into healthy, happy, productive adults in a constantly-evolving world?

Recommended… World Economic Forum: The new vision for education

6. Schools

Education today comprises an eclectic offering of schools, each with its own characteristics and mission to deliver a quality education that meets the needs of its learners. Those working in them are all, in their own ways, passionate about nurturing balanced, integrated and healthy young citizens. They want to produce happy people who achieve and delight in mastering life skills, gaining knowledge that allows them to mix well socially at school, at home, and in wider communities.

Recommended… Six Seconds, an Emotional Intelligence (EI) network: Supporting kids to thrive

7. Policy

Many stakeholders sense that young people benefit enormously when their academic instruction is integrated with nurturing their character strengths and wellbeing. A belief in educating learners both for life satisfaction and happiness led to the formation of the International Network of Positive Education (IPEN). This is a growing movement bringing together people from around the world, providing a forum for collaboration in changing education policy so that ‘positive education’ best practices and research can be shared.


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8. Culture

A school’s culture generally refers to how it functions. It evolves and is influenced not only by its history and location, but also by its current practices. The entire school community contributes to and influences its culture, with input from both teaching and non-teaching staff, the students, their parents and carers, and external stakeholders.

Many quality British schools both in the UK and overseas have attractive cultures that provide opportunities for a wide range of extracurricular opportunities, strong welfare support, and an understanding of global perspectives and modern British society.


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9. Personal

Actively building on personal character strengths has a lasting effect on happiness and wellbeing. Those striving to advance the quality and effectiveness of education are being inspired and driven by their own values to help bring out the very best in young people, so that they in turn can lead meaningful, successful, happy lives.


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