In my last post, we looked at the idea that the three Rs of reading, writing and arithmetic alone are not enough to prepare today's youth for the work of the future. If this is the case, then what are the skills we should be emphasizing? Economic forecasting organizations such as OECD and the World Economic Forum regularly rank the global workplace skills most in demand for the immediate future. The image connected to this post illustrates the changing nature of these skills and rankings.
Soft skills such as complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity have replaced skills such as people management at the very top of these lists. In addition, “new” skills such as emotional intelligence and cognitive flexibility figure prominently. Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to understand and effectively address one’s own emotions and those of others. Whereas cognitive flexibility is the ability to adjust one’s habitual thinking to new and novel ways of doing things. World Economic Forum symposia as recently as last week highlighted the most important skill of all is to “learn to learn and de-learn,” which is another way of saying cognitive flexibility, and to do it quickly, since there will be less time to make these changes in the future of work.
We can surmise these skills will be ever-more important because young people today face an increasingly uncertain career market. They must be prepared to face whatever comes their way and succeed. To do so, they will need much more than just the three Rs. Furthermore, lest we worry that we are in danger of focusing too early on skills for work, it is important we recast these as skills for life, especially in our 21st century reality. Recent research tells us the window of time for developing executive functioning skills, such as time management, organization and problem solving, is open widest during early childhood until the teen years. This is a crucial time upon which the premises of health, positive behavior, and achievement in life are founded. Experiences and learning before university specialization or job training are truly foundational.
At ASH, we are spending the beginning of this year setting our school’s next strategic direction. We are paying attention to the needs of the future according to important think tanks and broader research in learning and development; however, we are also asking you—our students, parents, staff, and the wider community—what your needs and priorities are, so we can build the most responsive school we can. You are the experts on your own children's present reality and hopes for the future. Our community is a treasure trove of experience and international, highly mobile work and life. Thank you for all your input. I will be highlighting more of these topics in this blog. Please check back often as I share what we are learning about schooling, growing good people, and looking out for the progress of our students, our community, and the world.
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