Education for jobs which don’t yet exist – are we being bold enough to challenge the norms?

Amongst Winston Churchill’s many famous quotes he said: “A politician thinks about the next election – the statesman thinks about the next generation”. As a school leader we are expected to be politicians – it’s a critically important part of the job – but increasingly we should be challenging ourselves to behave more like a statesman thinking about the future of education and the ways in which we teach the next generation.

Research tells us that by 2030 two billion jobs are likely to be automated out of existence with the rise of robotics; Artificial Intelligence technology; converging technologies and so on. Tomorrow’s students will need skills therefore that can’t be automated to keep them competitive in the workplace. The current generation are moving towards a world of work we don’t yet know about but is only a few years away. And yet we are still teaching them the same things, often in the same ways, as we have always done; it’s not very ‘statesmanlike’.

In a recent survey carried out by Fortune500, top employers were asked to list what were the most valued skills to be found in an employee. The most favoured skills were:

  1. Teamwork
  2. Problem-solving
  3. Interpersonal skills
  4. Oral communications
  5. Listening skills
  6. Personal career development
  7. Creative thinking

Literacy and numeracy scored much lower down the list.

In the face of all this, and the global workplace which means UK young adults will have to compete with young adults from all over the world for jobs, how should we ensure our young people thrive and do not just survive? There are a number of critically important questions school leaders need to be asking:

What education do they need? Content rich or skills rich?

What sort of educational spaces should we be teaching in? Are we being innovative enough?

What’s the role of technology in education? The vast majority of exams – at all ages – are still written on paper yet the work place is predominantly computer based.

Are we still teaching to the test too much? A High School in the US made their students re-take a science exam three months later; the average grade went from a B to an F showing how they had peaked to ‘ace the test’.

There’s nothing new here, these questions are being asked already. However, we can’t just keep asking the same questions; it’s time to seriously examine what sort of education we want for our children to give them the best possible chances to succeed in life.

In 1915 John Dewey (American philosopher and educator who believed that human beings learn through a ‘hands-on’ approach that emphasises the need to learn by doing) wrote: “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow”. The same could be said in 2017.

I can’t wait to get started on working with the fantastic team of teachers here at Knighton to build an innovative curriculum complemented by a rich and varied co-curricular programme to ensure our girls are ‘match fit’ for their exciting futures. What a brilliant opportunity for us to be a leader for educating girls for tomorrow’s world.