Much is being talked about imparting 21st century skills to students in today’s school in order to enhance critical thinking, problem solving and analytical skills. Futuristic schools are paying attention to these areas and are incorporating necessary elements in their teaching process.
However, in order to actually inculcate these traits in students the schools also need to change the way education is imparted. The world today is all about change and educational process is no exception. The oft repeated cliché’ – the only thing constant is change, should be equally applicable to schools.
A look back in the past shows how rapidly the world has changed in past decade. Let’s take the example of phones. First it was the landline technology, then came the pagers which became a rage but disappeared much faster than it emerged. Finally came the mobile phones that evolved into today’s smart phones which are now integral part of our life. Smart phones have totally changed the way today’s student or any common man is interacting with the world, making interactions much quicker and wider.
The main idea here is that things are changing faster than before as the span of next change is shorter than the previous one. This means that the future job profiles, work skills and the way business is done will keep changing at a fast pace. Discrete shifts and huge discontinuities are going to be the biggest challenges for future workforce.
21st century school education has to be all about teaching the students how to cope with a fast-changing world and handle unpredictability. Therefore the young students of today have to ‘learn to learn’ and this deserves to be the central philosophy of 21st century education.
Here are some of the ways through which schools can prepare the students to cope with fast changing environment:
- Adaptability: Apart from basic theories in subjects like Physics, Chemistry, IT, English, Mathematics and Social Sciences, students should be proficient in adapting new and emerging ideas and apply those to the job at hand. This can only happen if schools provide a wide platform where students explore and learn to learn things on their own.
- Wider scope: All 21st century schools will have to widen the scope of subjects offered to students. Students need exposure to different fields of profession much before they choose a specialisation. Basic overview in subjects like International Etiquette and Behaviour, Customer Management, Mass Media, Culinary Skills, Data Sciences, Anthropology, Bio-Technology, should be offered at the school level. Students must be trained in at least one foreign language to actively participate in globalised economy.
- New teaching methodology: A 21st century school should take students beyond textbooks. The lesson plans and educational pedagogy need to be re-invented to encourage collaboration and teamwork so that students should find answers on their own, and also come up with new questions. The teaching methodology has to motivate to find new topics in the same subject matter, not only discuss ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ but also ‘what if’. The discussion patterns has to veer more towards learning through questioning and discovering new paradigms.
- Technology: Technology should be an integral part of classrooms in 21st century schools. The students must be comfortable using ICT and latest devices to find information on new topics and discoveries in a self-sufficient manner. Rather than being given answers by teachers, students should rely on technology to find their own answers and interpretations.
- Skills-based education: Professions that are available now might be obsolete later and hence students need to be equipped with contemporary skills. For instance computer programming is forecasted to disappear over time as automation takes over. Similarly, legal and medical advice might not need manual intervention as AI and chatbots will gain deeper roots. To prepare students for 21st century, schools should teach upcoming skills like Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, as these will comprise major chunk of future jobs.
The main direction of 21st century school education should be to teach students the quality to re-invent themselves and quickly adapt to the changing needs.
Most importantly, the schools should provide suitable platform for building inquisitiveness and discovering what more is there to learn, assimilate and practice. They should be able to look beyond a problem and to think out-of-the-box.
Only if the student becomes a dynamic learner, he or she can cope with the new skills and knowledge required by a 21st century world where coping with change will be the key to survival and growth.