Preparing Children for a Changing World

WEF 200116

The World Economic Forum gathering in Davos just got under way, against a backdrop of crashing world stockmarkets, currency turmoil and new lows for world oil prices. Rightly, the discussions and thinking there are as much on the longer term as the short term – there’s not too much that anyone can do to change what’s happening right now!

The image shown above was shared in today’s deliberations, along with a prediction that automation, robots etc. will eliminate an estimated 5 million jobs between now and 2020. That’s not even 5 years away, so when we think about implications for the children in schools today, the likelihood is even more stark.

Everything about this data tells me that we’ve been spot on when advocating that today’s school education needs to undergo major changes so as to emphasise on the development of soft skills and with a strong focus on young people who have high levels of resilience, self-actualisation and flexibility to deal with the speed of change in the world.

Five years from now is about when this year’s Board exam students will enter the world of work. When looking at the list of ‘in demand skills listed above, I find myself concluding that today’s standardized tests do little or nothing to further the development of those skills in young people. In fact, the focus on the standardized tests detracts massively from developing these skills. Students and their parents become convinced that they must direct all their energy towards squeezing out maximum achievement in the exams and tests whilst teachers and schools feel obliged to ‘teach to the tests’ and resort to excessive direct instruction, drilling and rote rigour to drive students to the best possible scores on these tests.

How much real, quality experience are children getting in school to develop their complex problem solving, creativity and critical thinking? How can we get far more emphasis on emotional intelligence, interpersonal and interacting skills?

Over the last 10 years, whenever economies have picked up positively, industry after industry has had its ability to ride the buoyancy held back by their inability to find the talent required with the necessary skills. Looking at this list and the massive mismatch between the predictions for skills required and the actual things going on in schools, I see this deficit getting far worse. This is very bad news for economies, but even worse news for the young people who will find themselves unwanted and unattractive to employers through no real fault of their own.

We need to be addressing these issues, and soon.

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