A great deal has been written about the future and the importance of preparing students with the skills, mindset, and attributes necessary for success in a rapidly evolving world. Truth be told, this is quite the harrowing task and one that should compel us all to pause and critically reflect on not only where schools are, but more importantly where our students need them to be. If schools continue down the track of sustaining outdated practices we will continue to churn out a population of students that are only good at doing school. This applies not only to K-12, but also higher education. Change is not coming, it is already here beating down the door.
Speaking of change . . . With the rapid pace of technological change, specifically advances in robotics and artificial intelligence, it is nearly impossible to hypothesize the types of jobs that will be available. Thus, schools and education in general need to create a learning culture that not only inspires students, but also prepares them for success in their future. This means re-integrating trade-based courses and programs that use to be the norm in virtually every school. After all, the world will still need plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and auto mechanics well into the future. The caveat here though is to employ forward thinking to create new areas of study and exploration. These revamped programs should afford students the opportunity to use real-world tools to engage in meaningful work that aligns with a future-focused vision. How well schools do this might ultimately determine not only the future success of our students, but a prosperous future in general.
Without a crystal ball it is difficult to foresee with certainty what the future will hold. However, an endless array of cues garnered from technological innovation affords us the opportunity to reinvent schools in ways that can give students a fighting chance in the new world of work. We first acknowledge the fact that the way many of us were taught and assessed has little value in today’s world, let alone the future. The second acknowledgement is that an effectuation with standardized test scores, grades, and homework will only result in schools going deeper down the rabbit hole. Something must give.
The new world of work presents a wakeup call of sorts. A business as usual model based on efficiency, repetition, and knowledge acquisition will only prepare students for a world that no longer exists. Skills that emphasize the unique abilities specific to human beings will enable not only current, but also future generations of learners to prevail in a world where technology will eventually replace most jobs currently available. The challenge for education is to begin to embrace new modes of thinking and innovative practices that are disruptive in nature and difficult to assess using traditional metrics. This shift will not be easy, but the outcome could pay off tenfold.
We are at a crossroads in education. Traditional measures of success often blind us from the truth. Consider looking at the current job market and see where the trends reside by conducting an audit. Then compare these to your curriculum, course offerings, pedagogy, learning spaces, available technology, schedule, and other key components of school culture to determine how prepared your students are for the current workforce. Take your audit one step further and determine how/if imagination, negotiating, questioning, empathizing, storytelling, connecting, creativity, and design are emphasized in your school culture. This audit will help you determine preparedness for the new world of work.
Source: A Principal's Reflections
Last Updated on May 2, 2020
I am a Senior Fellow and Thought Leader on Digital Leadership with the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE).