Skills for the Future
I was listening to a TEDx Talk on youtube on "Four Key Skills To Lead The Future", and it got me thinking.
Currently, we are in the initial phase of experiencing a paradigm shift in our economy, where a lot of jobs are being automated. This shift has been caused by significant technological advancements which will prove to be a huge market disruptor for human employment - the way email has been for postal mail. Technology is certainly taking over mechanical and/or repetitive activities like driving where self driving cars will become a common occurrence in the next decade or so. But that's not where the impact ends. Automation is also being used for ‘thinking’ activities like writing newspaper articles. Apps like Quill, Automated Insights etc are used by several media outlets to write articles.
So the question is how do we educate / prepare our kids today for a life we know will be very different from the one we live today? What if someone trains to be an accountant, a well paying secure job today and it gets automated 15 years later from today (which is highly likely)? According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor, 65% of today's grade school kids will end up in a job that hasn't been invented yet. So how do we prepare for a scenario where today’s jobs may not exist in the future and the future’s jobs are not known today. This is the question various educators, think tanks, and institutions have been trying to address.
Tony Wagner, a renowned speaker and Expert in Residence at Harvard University's Innovation Lab, has spoken about 7 basic survival skills for the future. Similarly, the Institute For The Future has published their own list of the skills needed for the future (2020). Mapping the two lists together, one can see the huge overlap, showing that there is a growing consensus for the need to develop the following skills in our children:
- Agility and Adaptability/ Novel and Adaptive Thinking
- Sense-Making and Trans-Disciplinarity
- Critical & Creative Thinking and Problem Solving/ Curiosity and Imagination/ Accessing and Analyzing Information
- Initiative & Entrepreneurialism/ Leading With Influence/ Social Intelligence
- Design Mindset
- Computational Thinking
- Collaboration/ Cross-Cultural Competency
- Effective Communication/ Oral, Written and New-Media Literacy
The good news is that all of these skills can be taught! Unfortunately, there are limited opportunities for children to learn, practice and develop these skills, because the primary focus for most is still getting good grades. We cannot continue with the old approach... without running the risk of becoming a redundant dinosaur when we could be part of a very exciting ever evolving conversation.