In a recent workshop with Tania Lattanzio, she shared this video. As you watch it, consider its accompanying question: will our children be prepared? The world continues to evolve at an alarming pace. Education must keep up and reflect society otherwise we’re preparing children for a world that no longer exists.
It’s important to point out that these game-changing innovations are being developed today. This is not a sci-fi, distant future. It’s not even a future that belongs solely to our students. We’ll all see it unfold over the next few years and, put simply:
“The general public is about to get blindsided.”
A major 2017 study by the McKinsey Global Institute (across forty-six countries) suggests that up to 800 million jobs will be automated by 2030. The same findings state that 20% of current UK jobs will be displaced in the same time period. In the world’s richest countries where automation is affordable, it states that one-third of workers will need to retrain. It isn’t all bad news though, as many experts predict that robots will create more jobs than they take. Still, change is upon us.
In a recent interview, Jack Ma emphasised the need for education to urgently move beyond knowledge-based schooling. As Ma states, our students will not be able to compete with machines. Anything that machines will do better than humans needs to be reconsidered. In what ways can we compete with machines? I’m reminded of this quote from George Couros:
“As the world becomes more “digital”, it is crucial that we become more “human”.”
What is it, then, that makes us human? What separates us from machines? As technology starts to outperform us on our hard skills, we must focus on the soft.
While hard skills refer to technical and trained dispositions, soft skills relate to personality, emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. In short, they are about character and ‘people skills’. They are transferable and important across all industries. To give just a few examples, soft skills include:
- Critical thinking
- Conflict resolution
The McKinsey Global Institute supports this shift towards soft skills. According to their report, jobs that require human interactions will be safer (at least for now). Soft skills are more “human” and harder to replicate artificially.
What are the implications for education? The PYP places an importance on soft skills through the Essential Elements, the attributes of the Learner Profile and the overall aim of developing international mindedness. As PYP teachers, we have to ensure that we are treating these elements with the status that they deserve and actively working towards student progression in these areas. I am more concerned about traditional education systems that continue to place too much emphasis on facts. While knowledge is still important (it’s one of the PYP Essential Elements), it’s also cheap. It holds less power than it once did. I also worry that soft skills will continue to take a backseat just because they are harder to test, measure and quantify (but that’s a different blog post for another time).
Regardless of where you teach or what curriculum you follow, here are a few suggestions for promoting and developing the soft skills in your students:
- Consider the integration of soft skills during lesson design
- Encourage students to reflect on their soft skills
- Implement STEAM disciplines and maker-centred learning
- Allow time for passion projects with an emphasis on transferable skills
- Use facts as a foundation on which to build conceptual understanding
- Offer (and value) a broad and balanced curriculum
- Develop the ‘whole child’
- Value the process of learning as well as the outcomes
- Continually model the soft skills that you want your students to demonstrate
These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. What else do you suggest? How can we develop our students’ most “human” traits and abilities? Please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comment section below and let’s keep the discussion going.
At this point, you might be questioning the job security of educators. I do not believe that teachers will be replaced. It’s an extremely “human” profession that relies on relationships, interactions, empathy and heart. However, I wholeheartedly agree with Mark Wagner:
“This does not mean technology has not changd the role of the teacher. It has – and dramatically.”
Mark Wagner, More Now
We don’t know what the future will be like but we do know that it will be unlike the present. To conclude, I’d like to bring your attention back to this question: will our children be prepared?
If not, we failed them.
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