Planning ahead for students in an ever-evolving world

 Radhika Zahedi

Our world is changing swiftly in exciting, ambiguous, and unpredictable ways. It feels like a rollercoaster ride that thrills us with the possibilities of innovation and also throws us unexpectedly into a panicked free fall. The one that is looming largest in people’s minds today is the possibility of AI. What can AI do for us? What can we automate and augment? What jobs will it wipe out? The ‘Future of Jobs 2023’ report from the World Economic Forum predicts that technology, digitization, and sustainability will have the largest impact on work roles. It reports that employers anticipate 44% of workers’ skills to be disrupted in the next five years and are not optimistic about the availability of talent to fill the gap. At the same time, they expect that technology will create more jobs than displace them.

It is hard to predict changes with certainty. What we can say for sure is that this condition of unpredictable and rapid change in the world is here to stay. Educators and parents can plan an education for the future by reflecting on three fundamental questions:

What should students be learning?

How should students be learning? 

What role should educators and mentors be playing in this process?

What should students learn?

Redefining learning goals

21st century competencies: The demand for new skills necessitates a shift in learning goals. ’21st century competencies’ include deep disciplinary knowledge and skills as well as digital literacy, critical thinking, collaboration, and adaptability. In an evolving world, it’s crucial to continuously define these competencies.

Personal leadership and global citizenship: Students need personal leadership skills to direct their own learning in a digital and information rich world.  They also need global citizenship competencies for effective collaboration in a diverse world that is more connected than ever.

How should students learn?

Re-imagining learning systems

Rich, rigorous, relevant content: The content and learning approaches must be updated to reflect the complexity and diversity of today’s world, focusing on deep knowledge, transferable skills, and contextual relevance. Shallow, procedural, or generic knowledge has little value today.

21st century tools: Students require contemporary tools. The analogy of learning to fix a bicycle with a toolbox designed for spacecraft maintenance underscores the necessity for tools tailored to the demands of the present. Learning methodologies should also be engaging and interactive.

Project-based learning: Practical application of knowledge is vital, simply possessing knowledge in theory is not enough. Project-based learning fosters inquiry, problem-solving, and creative collaboration.

What role should educators play?

Educators as role models, mentors, co-creators

Facilitators and collaborators: Educators are transitioning from being knowledge repositories to facilitators and collaborators, guiding and co-learning with students.

Role models for competencies: Educators themselves must embrace a learning mindset, continuously updating their knowledge, embracing technology as a collaborative tool to enrich learning experiences by modelling relevant skills.

Forward-thinking in education revolves around ensuring that students are prepared to navigate rapid change, uncertainty, and complexity. We need to equip learners with the right knowledge and skills. We can do this by using project-based approaches that build practical knowledge along with conceptual and leverage collaboration and the use of modern tools. And of course, educators and parents must be continuous learners themselves, ready to upgrade their own knowledge so that they can be effective guides to students.

If we approach it correctly, students have the potential to develop deep knowledge and skills, surpassing anything we’ve witnessed before.

The author is School Director, The Green Acres Academy, Chembur, Mumbai.

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