We have all heard and read the headlines — “65% of current school students will be in jobs not yet invented (as per the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development)” or “85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been invented (according to Dell)” or even “50% of current jobs will be automated by computers and robots (per recent study at Oxford Economics)”.
These statistics are likely to be very true in a world where the only certainty is that the future is looking like it will be very uncertain. So, the key question is how are we preparing our students for this uncertain world — one where jobs are going to be very different and exist within a society which is centred around a gig-economy approach?
Whilst much is being written about this currently, the majority of schools and school systems continue to deliver an education and curriculum which simply does not reflect the skills, literacies, and capabilities required for the world of the future. The recent OECD Future of Work and Skills Report outlined that the first major challenge that needed to be tackled was to “prepare young people for the jobs of the future by ensuring that they are equipped with the right type of skills to successfully navigate through an ever-changing, technology-rich work environment, and give all workers the opportunity to continuously maintain their skills, upskill and/or reskill throughout their working lives”.
In the recent publication Redefining Readiness (Knowledgeworks), it states that “education at all levels will [need to] prepare learners continually to reskill and upskill and to know how to partner constructively with machines.” But does that mean that education must be all about tech?
The simple answer is no. However, education must expose students to a wider range of skills and literacies that will prepare them to use technology to understand and solve the challenges of the future. What all of these reports refer to is the need to ensure the balance between knowledge acquisition and application, coupled with heightened social and emotional skills — the “soft skills” that many people refer to. Schools and education systems more widely have predominately followed econ-omic eras — content, instruction, outcomes based on standardisation... all following an industrial and factory-based model relevant at the time.
Yet, we are now embarking on the Fourth Industrial Revolution era — one which is based on exponential technological advancements which will impact both work and society. Education needs to provide an answer to how we best prepare and, therefore, adapt within this new paradigm and do so very quickly.
Imagine a curriculum that no longer focuses on subject disciplines and content, but one in which self and social awareness coupled with self-discovery sat at the heart of the curriculum. And social and emotional skills being considered just as, if not more, important than traditional subject content.
Greater agility in dealing with ambiguity
This re-focusing of a very different foundation would prepare students to be able to cope with much greater agility in dealing with ambiguity, in solving problems, in communicating more effectively — especially across collaborative digital networks, and in applying systematic and critical thinking to real world solutions.
The ability to learn to create new knowledge will become more important than knowledge itself — and there lies the answer.
How much time do we actually give within schools and curricula to the above? Stand-alone days for entrepreneurship, careers days, or pastoral challenges are simply not enough anymore. In talking to employers, social and emotional skill sets and capabilities are now seen as a prerequisite for the future, and in some companies more important than traditional academic qualifications.
Companies such as Apple, Google, EY, Hilton, IBM, and many more are now re-thinking recruitment strategies to look not just at book-smart students but those with greater qualities, talents and outlooks. Interestingly, in the UK this year, nearly 35 per cent of university offers were unconditional and many other universities globally demonstrated similar admission patterns. The world around us is changing at an increasingly rapid rate. It will be different again in five, 10, 15 years... all points at which your children will be leaving the school system and entering the world of the future.
It is time to for us to rethink and redress the balance — educating for the past is no longer an option.
Mick Gernon is the chief education innovation officer of GEMS Education.