Skills for education
The world is a dynamic, confusing, and somewhat unpredictable place. School is meant to guide us from a young age and teach us how to navigate this uncertain world.
The skills learned in schools should prepare children to take on this uncertainty and enable them to embrace and adapt to it, not fear it.
Those who are best prepared for the future will have a positive impact on their surroundings, influence the future, understand others’ intentions, actions and feelings and anticipate the consequences of what they choose to do. Choices always have consequences and understanding those consequences in relation to a changing world is imperative.
So as a changing world is becoming more and more of a reality, what are the skills that today’s students need to know to thrive in the world of 2030 and 2040?
This article seeks to answer that question through the assessment of a few well-researched reports and studies.
According to Bill Gates,
For the curious learner, these are the best times because your ability to constantly refresh your knowledge with either podcasts or lectures that are online is better than ever.
According to one of the most curious learners ever, this sentiment may just be true about today’s students.
How the World is Expected to Change
As technology continues to evolve and develop at an unprecedented rate, the future of the workforce is uncertain and perhaps frightening.
Advances in technology have and will continue to cause major disruptions in the workforce, as automation could replace up to 50% of jobs in the United States alone, and likely more in other nations.
According to a study done by Microsoft and Mckinsey,
occupations associated with lower educational attainment levels will decline by up to 11.5 million jobs in the United States by 2030.
Hand in hand with this fact is that the fastest-growing occupations will require higher-level cognitive skills in areas such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity.
30-40% of jobs will require social emotional skills.
In this same study, Microsoft and Mckinsey estimate that less than 50% of students will be prepared for the fastest-growing jobs. If these facts are to be assumed to be correct, then it is abundantly clear that we need to change the way we educate our youth.
The solution to this issue, proposed in the study, is to respond to the growing need for greater student-centricity and a heightened focus on learners. Students want to develop skills to navigate their own learning, explore and make choices that allow them to unlock potential.
What Skills Students Will Need to Live in Such a World
In a report done by Pearson, they researched and assessed the future skills of employment in 2030. Their findings revealed that the future is not only influenced by automation, though that is a huge part.
Their model includes an analysis of other key trends that must be used to determine the bigger picture of work.
- Environmental Sustainability
- Increasing Inequality
- Political Uncertainty
- Demographic Change
All of these factors are going to be sources of stress and change on the workforce and it is something that students, employees and employers must be part of.
According to their report, Pearson estimates that 10% of the workforce are in occupations that are likely to grow as a percentage of the workforce, while 20% are in occupations that are likely to shrink.
Though 20% seems like a high percentage, this is much lower than other studies have predicted. In contrast to Microsoft and Mckinsey’s estimate of 50% job replacement, this is a much better number.
The jobs estimated to increase in the coming years are generally public sector jobs such as education, healthcare, and public service. This is predicted in correlation with an aging population and a higher value placed on lifelong learning. These sectors are traditionally labor-intensive and that is likely not going to change drastically with technological advancement.
To find success in areas of the workforce that are expected to decrease, employees are going to have to be more equipped and skilled to compete in a tougher job market. The essential skills for both these industries and industries that are expected to see growth are changing.
Pearson notes a few key skills that employees are going to need to develop in this changing world.
- There is a strong emphasis on interpersonal skills, higher-order cognitive skills, and systems skills
- There will be larger importance of higher-order cognitive skills such as originality and creativity, fluency of ideas, and active learning.
- Skills related to system thinking must also be emphasized. These skills include the ability to recognize, understand and act on interconnections and feedback loops in a sociotechnical system.
It is clear from various studies that the most important skills that you have as an employee in the changing world are functional social skills. You must be able to use your judgment and decision-making skills, systems analysis, and system evaluation skills frequently, and effectively.
In a report from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), researchers analyzed the most important skills for students to have and learn to prepare for the future work environment. According to their research, students who are best prepared for the future are change agents, ready to have a positive impact on their surroundings and influence the future.
Successful change-making students need both broad and specialized knowledge. As always, there is an importance to learning disciplinary knowledge, but specific, evolving knowledge is also very important. Learning both broad and specific knowledge will allow students to develop a multidisciplinary thinking pattern and better be able to connect the dots across various areas of knowledge.
The skills important to this kind of thinking, according to the OECD, include cognitive and meta-cognitive skills such as critical and creative thinking, self-regulation, social and emotional skills, and practical and physical skills.
What Factors will Affect Their Ability to Develop These Skills
The prospects for students going forward in life by the Microsoft and Mckinsey study are startling. In a survey of several thousand employees, this is what was found and took away from their research:
- 58% said new college graduates are not adequately prepared for today’s workforce, mostly due to a specific gap in social-emotional skills.
- 55% of youth agree with this statement.
The research and surveys done by Microsoft and Mckinsey clearly shows that there needs to be a necessary change in the way youth are educated. To do this, the study proposes a few ways to go about this shift.
One of the most important things that students should be learning in school is the ability to develop both the important cognitive and social-emotional skills that will allow them to succeed in their personal and professional lives. To do this, a student-centric teaching model is crucial.
- Mckinsey estimates that technology can help teachers reallocate 20-30% of their time so they can focus more on student-centric activities such as building deeper relationships one on one, refining lesson plans to cater more towards the individual or providing real-time and personalized feedback to each and every student.
Teachers should be encouraged to collaborate with other educators to create or pilot programs that explicitly address social-emotional skills. Collaborative learning platforms enable students to work together respectfully and to negotiate as they co-create.
The OECD Education 2030 project has identified three categories of competencies that will be crucial for preparing students for the future. These “Transformative Competencies” address the growing need for young people to be innovative and responsible while being aware of the changing workforce they will soon be a part of.
- Creating New Value
One of the most important skills for preparing for 2030 is the ability to think creatively and develop new ideas. This kind of thinking should enable individuals to come up with new products or services, new jobs, new methods of work, and new ways of thinking.
With such an advanced workforce, it is hard to come up with new ideas. With growing automation and other pressing issues, creating new value is essential to success.
Encouraging creative thinking through artistic or entrepreneurial classroom opportunities is a great way to promote this kind of thinking. While testing and traditional schooling are important in gaining knowledge and tracking progress, encouraging a less concrete method of assessment should be equally as important.
- Reconciling Tensions and Dilemmas
Interpersonal skills have always been important, but according to a number of impressive reports, it is going to become more important than ever in the upcoming years. OECD Education 2030 marked reconciliation skills as one of the top three skills that students should be learning.
With growing inequalities, the skill to reconcile diverse perspectives and interests in local settings with global implications will require the ability to handle tensions and dilemmas successfully. Examples of this kind of skill can include balancing equity and freedom, autonomy and community, innovation and continuity, and efficiency, and the collaborative process.
One way this can be implemented in teaching students can be seen through an emphasis on connecting personal and community experiences to a larger, maybe even global scale. Learning the importance of one’s actions on those around them is extremely important.
Bringing in different, new perspectives is also a great strategy for successfully teaching this kind of thinking. Collaboration with those who do not think like each other allows for discussion and learning outside of the bubble a student may find themselves in.
- Taking Responsibility
As a growing number of industries see a decline in workers, those at the top are going to be more responsible for their team’s actions than ever. Dealing with novelty and a changing work environment is going to be crucial for employees. Taking responsibility for your actions is crucial to working with others.
Creativity and problem solving require the capacity to consider the future consequences of one’s actions. Taking responsibility assumes that the individual is able to reflect upon and evaluate their actions in light of their experiences, personal, and societal goals.
Teaching responsibility is something that is already done in most school settings, however it is important to once again stress the idea that an individual’s actions have consequences outside of their own personal bubble.
It is clear that technology is going to move at a great pace and will surely manage to surprise us, in a way, in its developments, but we can assume a few things that can help us prepare students set to graduate in 2030 and 2040.
The reports we have analyzed in this piece have all shown that students will need to be able to learn skills revolved around critical and creative thinking, empathetic leading, and responsibility in their own actions. These are not necessarily new skills, but a stronger emphasis is suggested.
Given the necessity for learning these skills, students’ ability to develop the skills needed for 2030 and 2040 is essentially linked to government planning and the execution of education. Educators in primary, secondary school, and higher education must make a shift to prepare students for this changing world.
When the future is uncertain and technology is anticipated to evolve and change the modern-day workforce, students should be well equipped to find their place in this future world.
According to the Mckinsey study, they found that lower and higher education shift their classrooms, it may be able for the United States to raise the number of bachelor’s and advanced degrees from the 2030 high school graduating class by up to 11%, meaning an extra 550,000 expected college degrees for the class of 2030.
Collaboration and adaptation of education are absolutely necessary to prepare today’s youth for employment and success in the future!