“The knowledge and information that my children are getting through the formal education system--is it good enough for them to face the rapid advancements in science and technology?”
“Are my kids getting ready to face the rapid changes in social structure?”
“Are my children developing a solid foundation to be successful in a globalized world?”
As parents of two under-teen children, my wife and I often go over these questions. Our discussions move around the education system, type of schools, curriculum, etc. The fact that we often go through these discussions shows that we have yet to get satisfactory answers.
We realized that we are trying to find the answer in wrong place. School or curriculum systems' mandates do not include getting children ready for the new world. We have nothing against the education system–it is doing its job. We have nothing against the schools–they are teaching the curriculum that is prescribed by the board of education.
However, we all agree that it is not good enough. Challenges are of a different kind.
When I look at their curriculum and books and compare with the advancements in every field, the gap is yawning. What our children are learning in school will be outdated by the time they go to college. Our children are going to find so much of a gap in what they know and what they are expected to know when they go out in real life that it is going to baffle them. Until 10-15 years back, the transition from education system to real life was quite smooth.
The challenges are not going to be only in education, they are going to be in social life as well. The contours of social circles have already changed. When we grew up, we and our parents had an idea of the social structure we would be entering in, and we were groomed accordingly. With the virtual societies and online social networking, we do not know how the societies are going to be shaped by the Internet world.
Also in professional fields, our children will be working in a globalized environment. They will need different skills to excel in such environments.
To help our children prepare to handle such situations, we need to help them acquire skills. Following is my list:
Ability to learn how to learn
Today's learning process has a structure that is made up of classroom learning and books, and there is an assessment process at the end of it. Most often the learning is guided by the assessment process. As the information and knowledge are changing so rapidly, kids would have to look at many sources of information beyond books and classroom. There might not be a formal assessment process in place.
Usually our mind processes new information based on what it has learned--it tries to find the context with the available information. In the coming days, the new information that children will be coming across will be far away from the context of what they have learned. Very often the information will be contradicting what the mind already knows. This information will not fit in the mind's frame of reference.
In such cases I would like my children to develop the ability to understand new sources, process such information, and learn from it. I would like my children to go through the skills development system that would help them face entirely new scenarios and face them confidently.
While the education and school systems teach students to be competitive, it's not going to be the only trait that will see them through in the coming age. I would like children to learn how to collaborate and become stronger. Personal growth and learning are going to happen more through collaboration and understanding of communities than being just a competitive person.
Working in virtual teams
Our children learn how to deal with their friends and people around them on a daily basis. But in the new world we increasingly find ourselves working with people whom we don't meet in person. We deal with problems by working with the team members through electronic and digital communications. Very often our decisions are based on our knowledge of our friend or colleague's background. That is not going to be the case in the virtual world, where children will have to deal with people and their unfamiliar cultures. I would like my children to learn the skill of dealing with virtual teams.
Leadership through influence
Today children are learning leadership skills that are oriented towards a command-and-control approach. In the new world it is influence that will matter to become a leader. Also in the coming times, while working in different communities a person's role will keep changing. The real leadership will come through influence and not through titles. I would like my children to understand the importance of being team player, influencer, and a leader.
The conventional education system cannot instill these skills due to paucity of time and often due to lack of quantification criteria. But we all know that these skills are important, and in coming times these will be the skills for basic survival. I strongly believe that we as parents will have to come forward and create communities to help our children learn these skills along with their regular education. If you know any such community which is trying to do so, please share here.