There was a time when people got into a job and continued with it for a lifetime. The current generation cannot imagine a world where they do not change jobs every few years.
It is not only seminal to their career growth, but also this varied experience is seen as an advantage during job interviews.
For our children growing up today and those recently out of college, there has been yet another big shift. Now, they don’t just switch jobs, they switch careers!
Re-learning, unlearning and continuous upskilling is now central to career growth. What changed about our world in 50 years, now changes in less than five years!
This pace of change is phenomenal and that entails radical changes in industry requirements every five years. Meta-cognition, or thinking about thinking or learning how to learn, is thus the most essential skill today.
Children need us to mentor, rather than instruct, them. They need us to nurture, rather than supervise them. They are smarter than us. Every generation is smarter than the previous one
We can no longer feed children on pure factual information, or teach to exams, or limit their goals to marks/other evaluative achievements. We never should have done that. Now, we certainly can’t!
Children spend their formative years in education, in preparation for life. Are we preparing them adequately? Are we equipping them well for the vital skills required for existence in this century? Remember, we are already 20 years into this century and a generation has already been raised to adulthood.
Evolution of foundational literacies
Foundational literacies have evolved from reading, writing and arithmetic long since. So have key competencies. Equally so have key qualities of character required for sheer survival in this century.
ICT literacy and computational thinking is now one of the key foundational literacies. Can you imagine an ICT illiterate employee in the workforce today?
Sustainable development of the world is an emergency requirement today and thus civic and cultural literacy is also foundational. Citizenship needs to be developed at a local, national as well as global level.
Children must learn to respect the ‘Other,’ they must learn to celebrate diversity. That’s the only way we can protect our uniqueness while ensuring that human race works together to sustain the world, the collapsing of the earth’s environment all around us.
Collaboration and communication are key competencies as the global village turns smaller and smaller keeping us ironically lonely while being more connected than ever before. The virtual world has taken over.
Our children are at an advantage as digital natives, but they are still too young, too naive to manage the draconian proportions of untruths, the vast sea of misleading social and emotional constructs floating on social media.
Need persistence and grit
Children more than ever need critical thinking, problem-solving, logical evaluation and analysis skills to make any genuine sense of the world around them. They need persistence and grit to combat the challenges posed by a world in constant flux.
While our children are growing up amid ‘instant gratification,’ if we are not careful enough as parents and educators, this generation will forget the taste of disappointments.
They may not be able to show courage and grit in the face of adversity. Curiosity, empathy, persistence and the ability to bounce back over and again are some seminal survival qualities they must acquire. Certainly, this isn’t an easy challenge for parents today.
Needless to mention that initiative and adaptability need to be core skills too. The good news for all of us is the fact that a human child is born to learn, born with an innate ability to explore, question, initiate and bounce back.
I feel, our children are born with what Carol Dwek in her popular research calls, ‘Growth mindsets.’ We tend to curb this incessantly.
We say far too many ‘NOs to the child. We caution their free spirit far too much. We want them to fit in somehow into a dated system — often a close-ended box.
The ‘Weapons of Mass Instruction,’ (in John Taylor Ghatto’s words) were designed to feed an industrial revolution ages ago. Our children cannot be bound by its rules and requirements today.
Merrily bouncing back
Think about a child learning to walk, or acquiring the mother tongue. There is no curriculum required. They keep trying until they get it right. They fall and hurt themselves endlessly, but they merrily bounce back endlessly.
Each time, child’s brain has identified the mistake and ensured learning through it. The child continues to try undeterred, undefeated, persistent. This is human, this is the innate ‘growth mindset’ of our children. This must be savoured and nurtured.
Let your child compete with herself/himself rather than others. Each time they must be able to out-shine themselves. Constructive praise can play a vital role here as we facilitate the free space for children to grow, adapt and evolve. The positive behaviours need to be encouraged constantly through constructive praise.
Empathy and dialogue are a key aspect. It is important to praise the action rather than the individual. To make it effective, it is important to be effusive and add the gesture and touch of love as a parent.
Positive reinforcements are the way to go rather than rewards and punishments. Think of what worked when they were learning to walk.
Each failure must be treated as a genuine building block, so should each little success. SMART goal-setting with children allowing them to take ownership of their learning goes a long way at building their confidence and nurturing qualities that are seminal to their life.
Identifying improvement areas and setting development targets and potential useful tasks with children lets them evolve. Reflective practice is a good way to do this, and should be built into the child’s routine.
A simple trick is to incorporate some DIRT (Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time) in our daily engagement with our children. The discussions during this quality family time could be centred around what they are achieving well, sharing feelings, sharing ‘little nothings’ of the day and identifying what could have been even better and how.
Childhood is precious. It is too precious to be lost in a mindless race. Let’s ensure that as parents.
Children need us to mentor, rather than instruct, them. They need us to nurture, rather than supervise them. They are smarter than us. Every generation is smarter than the previous one.
Let’s respect their smartness, their evolved self, their sense of selfhood, creative thinking and fresh perspectives.
Dr Farooq Wasil is a noted educationist and author. He is the global head, affordable schools, GEMS Education, Dubai.