Today’s 6 year old, starting school, will be entering the work force in 15 to 18 years time; can even the most clairvoyant of us predict what will be expected by employers then in terms of skills, abilities, attitudes, ethics? The work place is changing at a dramatic pace, jobs once considered essential or “safe” are becoming obsolete and new jobs are being defined. So what should students learn at school?
Developments are usually built on existing principles and ideas. The wheel has lead to the development of the modern high tech vehicles we have today. Research into how people learn has many of the answers and more attention needs to paid to this research by the people entrusted with preparing today’s pupils for the work place of tomorrow.
In many parts of the world, education is still very traditional, one dimensional, under resourced and low tech but is it all wrong? The basics in literacy and numeracy are being taught and understood. The methods and approaches are teacher orientated and the pupils are passive receivers. Those same students are still able, to some extent, develop 21st Century competencies. In some cases, those same students with very rudimentary resources are able to innovate and create items for their environments. These people have the basics but more importantly, they have a positive attitude towards learning, innovating and so change.
The teacher – the quality of which is the most important factor in any educational system.
Learning, no matter what the circumstances, should be RICH, REAL AND RELEVANT. A child who learns in a manner and environment which excites him/her will develop a positive attitude towards learning and confidently tackle any work situation. When a student is involved in a worthwhile activity, it is self-motivating, discipline issues do not arise, and positive working habits are developed. Having the right attitude to learning is one of the key attitudes required to accept change, become more adaptable, question, problem solve and therefore fit into the job market of the future.
The teacher has to embrace the changes; surrender the stick of chalk, control of the resources and the title of TEACHER and instead help students learn how to learn, think critically, problem solve, develop the right attitude to change, innovate and prepare for life. In-service training and teacher training have to meet the needs of the improved learning/teaching methods and new curriculum.
The teacher in a classroom in rural India or Zimbabwe, where resources are limited, can still make the curriculum RICH, REAL, AND RELEVANT, stimulating children to want to learn and find out more, do more, experiment, question, hypothesize, evaluate, empathize, think critically, problem solve.
What to teach and how?
Curriculum developers need to move away from a knowledge centred curriculum to a vocational, skills based curriculum requiring critical thinking and problem solving skills. Obviously the basics in literacy, numeracy and ICT need to be taught. What knowledge? Knowledge is not important, what is important is how it is taught.
The key concept in all this is change. Educators, therefore, need to prepare students with; a positive attitude to change and learning, good work habits, critical thinking and problem solving skills and the ability to change, adapt and apply.