Schools are challenged to prepare children for the ever-changing workplace, but the jobs they are likely to have, do not yet exist. So how do we keep learning relevant in this rapidly changing digital age and ensure that our children are equipped with the skills they will need for their future?
It goes without saying that children need to become digitally fluent from a young age, so technology skills need to be integrated into the curriculum. Most children are already engaged in tech, so adapt easily to digital learning. They respond well to the educational benefits, where they are actively engaged and able to access an enormous range of resources. Programming too, has been identified as a key competency leading into the future, and children as young as Grade R are now learning to code at school.
In our rapidly evolving job market, the industry needs employees who not only have technical skills but human skills too. These are the soft skills that distinguish people from machines and are integral to workplace success. Examples of soft skills are; teamwork, innovation, problem solving, integrity, communication, interpersonal and decision-making skills.
How can schools integrate these soft skills into their academic programme?
- A well rounded education: Schools that offer a well-rounded education with enriched experiences, provide further opportunities to develop soft skills. Activities involving sport and the arts become an extension of the classroom and a platform to practise teamwork and build relationships, share ideas, think creatively, resolve conflict and develop empathy. These are key skills for life after school, and need to be introduced at a young age.
- Collaboration is a vital tool in the workplace, bringing together a variety of perspectives and expertise. It gives companies the competitive edge when they can harness the power of teams from the creative and innovative thinkers to those with technical and problem-solving skills. Collaboration does not always come naturally to young children, so they need to be taught rules of engagement at school; such as listening to each other and responding respectfully even when they disagree. Classrooms in progressive schools are likely to be arranged in groups where children work together and share ideas. This model not only enhances learning but develops important social skills.
- Problem solving: Coding has been mentioned as a key competency for the future, but the real value of teaching these skills at school is to stimulate logical thinking and foster creativity and problem solving. These are essential soft skills which can be applied to most jobs. I am continually amazed how these young digital creators apply their coding skills and imagination to discover the exciting possibilities of making things happen.
- Adaptability is the ability to be flexible and creative in changing situations and has been identified as the most essential skill in the Covid-19 world. We have seen this in how children were expected to rapidly shift to a new way of learning and adapted to remote programmes with surprising ease.
Skills gained from remote platforms
- From Grade R, pupils learnt how to conduct themselves on video meetings, applying appropriate listening and speaking skills.
- It has also been inspiring to observe how they took ownership of their tasks; checking into their digital Classroom to watch instructional videos presented by their teachers and then completing and submitting their jobs.
- It was also interesting to see how they found ways to interact with teachers by adding digital messages to their work. We love how videos became a new way to explain learning and present speeches, and some pupils even made their own boot camp video following those made by the sport coaches. Digital skills have certainly advanced and many of the new strategies introduced for remote learning will form part of our post Covid-19 learning programme.
It is clear that our children are ready to embrace the digital age, but our responsibility as educators is to provide holistic learning that combines technology with the all important soft skills to ensure the next generation is well-equipped for their future.
St Benedict’s Junior Preparatory Head