Preparing students for the future: Equipping them with essential 21st-century skills - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Preparing students for the future: Equipping them with essential 21st-century skills

Jun 03, 2024 02:26 PM IST

What should schools, policymakers and parents do to future proof students for a world of such extreme flux?

The emergence of Generative AI and other disruptive technologies like quantum computing, will mean that the majority of students currently in school will experience a work and life environment very different from what they are used to. Society and civilization have always had changes but the difference in the current times is that the very rate of change is accelerating. Every decade from now will bring about transformative change which would be far greater than the amount of change that at any other time in history would have taken hundreds of years. Whilst most of the attention around planning for the future centers on accelerating technological progress but that is not the only factor that will bring massive changes. Climate change and the changing geo political order will also be big change agents.

To prepare for this firstly we need to reboot our school curriculums. AI and Data Science should be compulsory subjects and taught in an age-appropriate manner from the primary education years. (File Photo)
To prepare for this firstly we need to reboot our school curriculums. AI and Data Science should be compulsory subjects and taught in an age-appropriate manner from the primary education years. (File Photo)

Why empowering teachers is key to a sustainable future

What should schools, policymakers and parents do to future proof students for a world of such extreme flux? The approach should centre on planning for what is likely to change and also equally importantly preparing for what is likely to remain the same.

Preparing for Change

New technologies are likely to have profound effects on how we live, learn, love and find meaning and connection as a species. To prepare for this firstly we need to reboot our school curriculums. AI and Data Science should be compulsory subjects and taught in an age-appropriate manner from the primary education years. Second we need to rapidly upskill teachers and coaches to impart these skills to students. Third, we need to enable much closer interaction between the industry and private sector, schools, and regulators to update the curriculum frequently.

Schools will play a crucial role in bridging the gap between the current education system and the future needs of industry. Many private schools in India have already engaged AI implementation champions and coaches. Good initiatives of the central government for encouraging innovation like the Atal Tinkering labs need to be further strengthened by greater interface with the private sector. Twinning of schools where best practices are shared and synergies created will help make access to this knowledge more broad based.

Guest Column | Universities should ignite innovation, entrepreneurship

Even though parenting is a very rewarding experience it is also one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Many parents who are facing uncertain work environments also have anxiety about how best to prepare children for the future. What can parents do to prepare students for the future? Encouraging decision making and taking risks is a very important starting point. The confidence and security to take risks and accept failures is a very good predictor for future success of students. Since the current generation of students will face such a rapidly changing macro environment- the old rule books don’t apply. In the future people may not only need to change jobs but also change professions because of the creative destruction of jobs brought by technology. The key to flourishing in this environment is the ability to take risks and openness to new experiences. These skills are best learned at home and parents can play a vital role in helping develop these meta skills.

Focusing on what will remain the same

Some of the most important events in history that have a profound effect on our current lives and future will always lie outside the realm of forecasting. Think of Coronavirus, World Wars, and Natural disasters. History is filled with surprises no one could see coming but it is also filled with such abundant everlasting wisdom. Change captures our attention because it’s exciting but the behaviours and patterns that never change are history’s most powerful lessons.

If we want to understand the changing world and prepare students for it then a good place to start is thinking about what will remain the same.

Communication is the key to the human experience and is the superpower that allowed us to collaborate and evolve from bipedal apes roaming the African savannah to become spacefarers who have reached the moon. Strong communication skills will always be valued. Communication is the key to persuasion, collaboration and sharing emotions. Schools and parents should actively encourage and hone these skills. Schools must have active programs to develop these for all children and parents can give their children the right environment by encouraging conversations and curiosity.

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for learning, succeeding in the work place, and creating healthy nourishing relationships in life. SEL gives people—from childhood through the full life span—the tools they need to build and maintain positive relationships, control strong emotions, and express empathy. Developing these skills is the key to have happy well adjusted adults. Deep meaningful connections and relations in life are the single biggest predictor of happiness as per the Harvard Study of Adult Development. The world’s longest running social science experiment concluded that more than wealth, power or fame it is the quality of our relationships which determine our happiness. Having a structured program for social emotional learning in schools is vital for helping students gain the skills to find happiness.

Transformative power of mother tongue-based education

Conclusion

The aim of a good education system is not to teach students what to learn but how to learn. The exciting but uncertain times for the future require creative policy making and collaboration between parents, educators and policymakers. Even though this paradigm shift heralding the age of AI, climate change and a changing geo political world order might seem daunting, humanity has overcome and creatively solved several existential challenges in the past. It is adapting against these challenges that make us human. Einstein said this most simply when he observed, "Human Spirit must prevail over technology".

(Author Praneet Mungali is Trustee, Sanskriti Group of Schools and alumni of London School of Economics. Views expressed here are personal.)

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Sunday, July 21, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On