Welcome to the twenty first century, where we are inundated with phrases like, “the world is rapidly changing” or “the world is flat.” We’ve heard the clarion call about the world today and tomorrow and we know it’s true.
In the blink of an eye, thousands of new strands of information and knowledge, compelling or useless, ground-breaking or trivial, endlessly stream across the globe and our devices. Great leaps in medicine, technology, robotics, new discoveries, new ways of communicating, as well as impending crisis from global warming to unbridled barbaric terrorism slickly presented on social media abound. We struggle to contend with the pace of change as the ground seemingly shifts beneath our feet. This is the world our students will inherit and it begs the question, what skills and competencies will our students need in order to successfully navigate this brave new world? While parents, teachers, educators, philosophers and scholars all attempt an answer, a good place to start is the concept attributed to the futurist philosopher, Alvin Toffler, almost 50 years ago:
“The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”
Whatever the approach, in order for schools to effectively adapt to future needs, we must directly engage our parent community in a dialogue about the educational challenges schools face. To this end, the International School of Prague hosts a series of parent workshops called the Edge in Education. With the theme of “lifeworthy learning,” coined by educational thinker, David Perkins, the Edge in Education workshops explore new trends in education and how schools strive to remain relevant to today’s learner. The Edge in Education was recently recognized by the RSA in an article entitled:
“Partly related to transience issues, international schools may also have practices relating to parental engagement with the potential for broader replication. More radically, The International School of Prague’s Edge in Education Group is an attempt to engage parents in discussions about the future of learning and schooling. Given that parental attitudes can be an obstacle to less traditional approaches to teaching in all schools, this is a bold move, which may help create useful ‘upward demand’ from highly educated parents for different models of education.”
Pertinent to all parents is how our schools are preparing students with the skills, competencies and values they need for their future success. This last of the year Edge in Education workshop brought together a panel of parents representing different fields to present to parents what future-ready skills they believe students will need. Together we discussed the following questions:
Future Ready: What do today’s employers look for in people entering the workforce?
In the opening presentation we discussed ISP’s mission-based approach to learning, pointing to the essential skills and values addressed in the school’s mission:
ISP Empowers Learners to:
- Think Critically and Creatively
- Work Cooperatively and Independently
- Listen and Communicate Effectively
- Act with Compassion, Integrity, Respect and Intercultural Understanding
With foundational literacies, sometimes called the “3R’s” (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic), as a given, the above skills and values in our mission represent essential qualities students will need in order to “adapt and contribute responsibly to our changing world.” (ISP Mission) During the workshop, other models of future ready skills were also discussed, such as the 7 Survival Skills proposed by the founder of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of numerous books on educational change, Dr. Tony Wagner.
- Critical thinking and problem-solving
- Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
- Agility and adaptability
- Initiative and entrepreneurialism
- Effective oral and written communication
- Accessing and analyzing information
- Curiosity and imagination
One immediately notices the similarities between Wagner’s 7 Survival Skills and ISP’s mission! During the Edge in Education forum we watched a short video where Wagner and other thinkers discussed the skills students need for the 21st Century. In the video Wager, who interviewed numerous industry CEOs and innovators posits this thought which resonated with our panelists:
“Knowledge is a given. Employers over and over say, well I’ll teach them the content they need, but what I can’t teach them is how to think, how to communicate, how to collaborate, how to initiate.”
During the Edge in Education forum, an example of how young learners can be dynamically engaged in learning future-ready skills was illustrated in the following video of a grade one class (six year olds) which focused on programing, robotics and collaboration!
After viewing the video the panelists and audience discussed the following guiding questions:
- What are the most important skills an employer is looking for?
- How have these needs changed or evolved?
- What skills will the world of work require in the future?
What ensued, as captured in this video, was a lively conversation among all participants about the skills and values students truly need to be future-ready.