We’re living in a fast-changing world.
Unprecedented advances in technology – such as Artificial Intelligence, Web 2.0 and automation – are dramatically shifting the work and education landscape as we know it. Soon enough, the skills we’re teaching at school today might not even be relevant to the jobs of tomorrow, nor in demand.
These shifts have already made their mark on the job market. The once solid security of industries like reception, data analysis, administration, trading, finance, hospitality, law and even medicine are wearing thinner by the day. Even the CEO of Google has predicted that within the decade we will switch to an economy that is “AI-first”.
Let that sink in. In the future, even doctors and lawyers could have their lunches cut by AI.
What’s more: the “future-focussed” skills of tomorrow – like coding and information systems – might not be as useful as they’re hyped up to be after all.
“Focusing on coding inflates the importance of finding the “right” method to solve a problem rather than the importance of understanding the problem.” – Basel Farag, TechCrunch
What does this all mean for our kids?
This much we know: job security is no longer down to the linear, qualifications-based pathways of the past decades.
There will be jobs, yes, but the competition will be fierce, and the conditions for getting one wildly unpredictable. We can’t possibly envision what these jobs will look like, or the specific tools and materials they’ll involve.
It is our task to equip our teenagers with skills that will help them to thrive in the face of this future uncertainty, and champion their growth best we can.
What skills will my child need for tomorrow’s world?
“With the accelerating change being experienced in the workplace, the critical skills workers have today may be irrelevant tomorrow. Everyone needs to be evolving, growing and adapting. Greater thinking capacity isn’t just desirable — it’s essential. It’s the one resource most organizations can’t hire enough of.” – Ira Wolfe, Prominent HR Expert and Author
According to the Talent Economy, there are six critical skills required for success in the coming decades:
- Critical Thinking
- Cognitive flexibility
Whatever stage of education your child is in, whether beginning or primary school or a few months from high school graduation – it’s a good idea to know exactly what skill-set they’ll need to thrive beyond school.
So that they can begin to hone those skills now, and study with direction, intention and purpose. Plus, when students learn these skills, schoolwork becomes less of a chore, and more meaningful.
Let’s dive deeper into the top the top six skills your child will need to succeed in tomorrow’s world – and how you can support your children to develop these.
Curiosity is a buzzword that has exploded in use over the last 2 years, but there’s actually some value to it.
The future economy will require a willingness to explore the uncertain, the courage to take risks, an excitement for discovery, knowledge and exploration, a healthy attitude toward failure, and an ability to transform these experiences into innovative responses to the world around them.
To survive and thrive in a world marked by high levels of political, environmental and technological uncertainty, it won’t only be the practical minds that will come up with the solutions – but the curious ones, who will have the courage to ask the right questions.
This is the essence of true curiosity – and curiosity will be especially valuable in a world of accelerating change.
In students, natural curiosity reveals itself in the “what?”, “why?” and “how?” queries they often pose when presented with information. The problem is, a lot of the time, rules of the education system are actually stifling this curiosity in kids.
For example, when a student receives bad grades, they’re often led to believe that this is due to a lower level of intelligence than their peers. This discourages the student from asking questions in class discussions, fearing disapproval from their teacher or classmates.
How you can help your child develop curiosity
You can revive your teen’s curiosity by giving them control over their learning process.
Inspiration Education’s holistic model of learning is specifically centred around awakening curiosity in its students. Instead of simply discussing facts, our tutors enter debates with their students, encouraging them to uncover all the seductive details of the concept through questions, answers and challenges. The result is not only deeper learning and memory retention, but also enhanced cognitive ability, a greater sense of self-confidence, and a hunger to know even more.
Outside the classroom, encourage questions. Have critical discussions at the dinner table, give respect to your teen’s opinion, and stimulate curiosity by asking questions yourself. Recognise that everyone learns, and understands things, vastly differently, and that might not always translate into grades in the same way as the next student.
Let your teen plan a family outing on their own, or encourage them to take control of a project you’ve had sitting idle for a while.
Chances are, you’ll be surprised at what they’re capable of once they’re given the permission to experiment.
Our tutors are so good that one lesson with us is twice as beneficial than with your standard tutor.
You can be confident that you are getting excellent value for money. Get your free trial lesson today to find out for yourself.
“You can be creative in anything – in math, science, engineering, philosophy – as much as you can in music or in painting or in dance” – Ken Robinson
Creativity is often misunderstood as an innate trait: you’re either born with it or you’re not. Many highly talented, creative individuals often believe they’re not – because the way they apply that creativity and talent isn’t valued at school, or worse, actively stigmatised.
The reality is much more promising. Creativity is something all children are born with. Every toddler has a fertile mind, a vast and diverse imagination, and a fearless attitude towards failure. They don’t care about whether or not they’re right or wrong; they don’t care if what they create will make them money; they just do!
The problem is, by the time they hit about 13, they’ve probably been taught that this creativity is not going to be of any use “in the real world”. They start bending over backwards trying to achieve the same grades as their peers, and upskilling in a number of practical areas. They learn that their worth is determined by their performance in test, and that the textbook answer is the most important, and perhaps the saddest myth of all: that if they don’t get that answer, it means that they’re dumb.
Now, there is value to tests and marks, which we’ll get into later. But the point is, we’re not teaching our kids how to harness their innate creativity. In fact, often, we’re dampening their natural desire think creatively, and before they even reach adulthood, they believe they’re incapable of it.
What does this mean?
Well firstly, it means that the lucky students who hold onto their creativity have a massive advantage on their “uncreative” counterparts. Creative types tend to be naturally motivated, open to new experiences, more likely to persevere, demonstrate deeper learning and cognitive capabilities, and faster problem-solvers.
The other, more pressing point perhaps: AI isn’t capable of human creativity (yet). The only skills that are future-proof from to automation those that can’t be programmed by numbers and algorithms.
It’s important to remember that creativity doesn’t just mean dance and painting – creativity is often about innovation, imagination, invention, failure and experimentation. It is a multi-disciplinary treasure chest, that can enhance performance in everything from Drama studies to quantum physics.
Inspiration Education’s holistic model of learning develops creative thinking by simply giving students the space for innovative expression. We pay close attention to what excites our students, and then give them the resources, equations and scenarios to experiment with those passions in ways that apply to their subject matter.
We’ll also implement creative approaches to problem solving, ensuring the student is taught the tools, not the test. For example, when a student successfully solves a problem, we’ll often ask them to solve it again, but find a new way of doing it (same answer, different route). Or, we’ll encourage them to come up with a different solution to the same problem, and evaluate their process.
How you can help your child develop creativity
From home, it’s important to create an environment in which creative thinking and expression is celebrated – not discouraged. Give your teenagers the space – and confidence – to try and fail. Encourage them to read for pleasure and participate in the arts. Ask for their opinion on ideas, events and creations you see on television or in the news, and listen to what they have to say.
Allow your teen to experiment with activities and hobbies that they genuinely enjoy rather than things you want them to do – incentives and external bribes are the biggest killers of creativity.
Finally, celebrate process over product. Ask questions about activities or projects they’re involved in. Did you enjoy it? What did you like about it? Have you learned any skills? How did it make you feel?
Creativity is not as useless, lofty and hippie-dippie as its reputation suggests. In fact, it is a valued skill that can enhance everything from your grades to your overall contribution to society.
“In practical terms, the amount of effort students are prepared to put in, and where that effort is focused, is at least as important as whether the students are smart.” – Dr Arthur Poropat, Griffith’s School of Applied Psychology
Has a teacher ever told you that your child has the brain to do well at school, but not the drive to match? That they’d be brilliant, if only they “applied themselves”? Or perhaps that they’ve got all the ideas in place, but never organise themselves in time to receive the grades?
A staggering amount of research points to the relationship between conscientiousness and success at school and beyond. Many studies have found that perseverance and organisation are more important than intelligence when it comes to success.
In short, success isn’t about the brains you’re born with. It’s more about your attitude, personality, drive, self-control, motivation, and strategy.
Tests and exams are brilliant opportunities for conscientious growth. They teach young people how to work towards a goal, self-assess and time-manage, persevere, strategise, evaluate risks and perform under high stakes. These skills are all critical to a sharp mind in a transforming economy.
However, schools can often do a weak job of teaching these strategies to students. Teachers are not given the time or resources to ensure that every student knows how to study, let alone the inspiration about why it’s important to try. So, it follows that many students are left struggling to stay afloat at school, simply because they don’t know how (or why) to bother applying themselves effectively.
Fortunately, there are common sense steps you can take to help your child become more conscientious in time for the pressures of the real world.
At Inspiration Education, we cultivate conscientiousness by equipping students with vital skills, behaviours and habits to increase their natural drive to succeed.
For example, when beginning tuition, we’ll help students to assess how motivated they already are, so that we understand the challenges they face. We encourage them to formulate their own goals, teach efficient study strategies, and help to support students when they’re feeling low or flat.
Furthermore, the regularity of weekly lessons develops conscientiousness in itself. Having a young mentor to look up to – who is reliable, dedicated and passionate about learning – helps to cultivate those same traits in their students.
How you can help your child develop conscientiousness
From home, you can help your child to turn conscientiousness in a habit by teaching principles, not giving orders. Studies have shown that individuals are far more likely to complete a task if they’re motivated by genuine intention rather than because someone else is telling them to do it.
For example, instead of telling your child to revise every night, you might teach them about how your memory retention rapidly deteriorates after twenty-four hours.
Or, instead of nagging them to study on their day off, it might be more beneficial to create time to ask about their career goals, and help them to work out the steps they need to take to get there.
By teaching principles rather than giving orders, students are allowed autonomy to make study work for them, while still aiming to meet the standards they set for themselves based on principle.
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4. Critical Thinking
Ask any educator, and I bet they will have encountered the exasperated question “But how will this help me in the real world?” from a student at least once in their career.
Although it often inspires an eye-roll from the teacher, this question is important, and forms the basis for the critical thinking skills required at higher education and beyond.
Critical thinking is the ability to dig-deep, read between the lines, show skepticism and problem-solve in new scenarios. As Samantha Cole of Fast Employers writes:
“Critical thinkers don’t rest on their memorization and regurgitation skills–they know that real problems occur outside of textbook knowledge, and are agile enough to find ways to solve them creatively.”
According to a survey by the American Management Association, 72% of employers consider critical thinking as critical to their organisations success, but only half of those actually believe their employees demonstrate it.
These statistics are unsurprising. Look at any smart marketing campaign for an education institution, and it’ll likely boast critical thinking as one of its attributes. However, because it’s so difficult to measure, there’s little evidence to suggest that we are teaching our children how to think critically, rather than just how to succeed within a established system.
In an age marked by high levels of political, economic, technological and social instability – the value of being able to “sift through all the noise” and find progressive solutions to these issues cannot be understated.
So how do we cultivate critical thinking in the next generation?
At IE, we make great efforts to ensure students realise the relevance of what they’re studying to everyday life. Every time a student reads and acquires new information, they’re actually creating little neural hooks to hang their thinking onto, making it easier to reach information and grasp concepts quickly. This process is especially important in teenagehood, where the window for brain development is most vulnerable.
So when a student can understand school material across a number of contexts, not only are they able to recognise the value of what they’re studying, but they are also in fact developing the new neural pathways needed for sophisticated problem-solving abilities (the ability to think critically).
How you can help your child develop critical thinking skills
At home, critical thinking is born from open dialogue.
Get into the habit of asking questions that get your teen to evaluate causes and effects, why’s and how’s.
How is this situation related to that lesson? How would you feel if you were in that person’s shoes? Why do you have that opinion? Why do you feel this way? What did that teach you? What do you think is likely to happen next? I see your perspective, but what if you looked at it this way? Why do you think this is the best option for you? What do you think you would do in their position? What’s another way we can solve this?
Try not to shy away from difficult topics, and avoid lecturing them on what to think. Instead, intervene in conversation with open-questions that open up new avenues of how to think.
Jobs are no longer the nine-to-five, top-down organizations we used to know.
They’re now more often structured by a network of teams, working in open-plan offices that promote diversity, collaboration and group thinking. Tomorrow’s working environments require relationships and communication to leverage creativity, and arrive at solutions in quick time.
This is in part due to the emergence of the digital workplace, which has allowed workers across departments, industries and even countries to share and collaborate in online spaces. With this dynamic tool of communication at our fingertips, the marketplace of competition has never been fiercer.
“There is a paradigm shift in digital workplace technologies and strategies to make enterprises more conversational and smarter. Such conversational environments require data, content, people, applications and overall technology to be in an intimate contextual flow and persistent.” – Dave Smith, The Digital Workplace
Kids today are already developing the digital literacy to thrive in these areas. Growing up in the age of the Internet, teenagers are adept at communicating on multiple platforms, keeping up with flows of information, and engaging in debates, discussions and discourses with distant strangers.
However, true collaboration requires more than just digital literacy. It involves advanced levels of empathy, emotional intelligence and communication. These are values that both the Internet and school Institutions don’t formally teach, and can’t promise that graduates will develop solely through formal education.
“One of the most valued skills employers are looking for in an employee is the ability to collaborate. This doesn’t just mean being ‘nice’. It means being able to be part of a productive, efficient team that gets the job done.” – Paul Curtis, advocate for education reform and founding staff-member of New Technology High School in Napa, California.
Our tutors strive to model these traits primarily by consistently making the effort to listen, understand and respect their students. Upon feeling “heard”, young people tend to put themselves in the shoes of others more readily. This paves the basic communication and empathy skills for successful group work, and allows the student to organically develop their own voice in participation work.
What’s more, in being able to control the learning process themselves, students pick up on vital interpersonal skills, such as listening, negotiating, debating, understanding and explaining. When students are given the same respect as they have for their leaders, dynamic collaboration occurs.
Outside of school, collaboration grows through socialisation. Friends influence our kids not only in the here and now, but also by laying the foundation for all of the crucial traits of humanity that matter to leading good lives – empathy, self-confidence, relationship skills, compassion, justice, peacemaking, compromise, and so on.
Moreover, friendship plays a big role in your teen’s general happiness and wellbeing, which impacts all aspects of their life, in school or out.
How you can help your child develop collaboration skills
- Talk about your feelings openly and honestly. This helps to develop emotional intelligence in students. People can’t care about others if they can’t recognise emotions, in others or themselves.
- Make sure they’re maintaining a healthy work/social life balance. If you feel your teenager is getting too consumed by their studies, encourage them to take a break and go out to see some friends.
- Encourage friendship and socialisation. Don’t judge your teenager’s friends too harshly. Instead, ask them about why they like the people they choose to hang out with, and appreciate what they have to say. Expose your teenager to a diverse range of people and perspectives wherever you can.
- Practice active listening – both in your conversations with your child and with others. When it comes to group activities or conversations – the real clincher for collaboration – adults need to support and hint rather than dictate or direct.
- Give respect to your teen’s opinions. To have fulfilling, productive conversations, there needs to be a level of equality between the two parties. This is why teenagers need to learn to self-regulate, and co-operate with others instead of simply following instructions from an authority.
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6. Cognitive Flexibility
Imagine you’ve spent your whole life studying to become a doctor. Over an excruciating 17 year-stint, you’ve learned all of the medical expertise, aced all of your exams, read all of the books, practiced all of the maneuvers, supervised countless examinations and put in the devastating hours and emotional labour to arrive at this moment.
But when you graduate, you discover that available positions in the field are alarmingly scarce.
The development of artificial intelligence and a surplus of of medical graduates just like yourself have saturated the job market, rendering many aspiring doctors out of luck. Suddenly, you’re not even sure if you’ll be able to find a job as a doctor at all, let alone a well-paying or close one.
Was everything you studied up until this point meaningless? Were all those hours spent at the library wasted? Will you be forced to give up everything you’ve dedicated half your life to, only to pursue work in a field you have no expertise in? Well, the answer depends on your level of cognitive flexibility.
Cognitive flexibility is the skill of transitioning and adapting quickly to new environments and novel circumstances. People with high levels of cognitive flexibility are said to have increased fluid intelligence, higher reading and comprehension skills, and healthier brains. They are the sorts of people who are most likely to succeed in unexpected scenarios like moving to a foreign country, industry shifts and last-minute change of plans.
Cognitive flexibility involves two important skills – flexible thinking and set shifting. The former is when you are able to think about something in a new way. The latter is the ability to let go of an old way of doing something to try out a new approach.
Those without this skill are said to have “cognitive rigidity,” and tend to be resistant to change, close-minded, unempathetic and pessimistic. These sorts of people are typically described as “stuck-in-their-ways”, and will blame circumstance for their success or failure, rather than outlook and attitude.
If tomorrow’s world is one big demo-derby, and your brain is the engine of the car, think of cognitive flexibility as the gear-stick.
Someone with cognitive-flexibility would have not only acquired medical skills throughout their studies to become a doctor. They would have learned the necessary study and self-management skills to succeed in a fiercely competitive field. They would have known the importance of consistently updating their beliefs, and the value of interjecting new perspectives into their own understanding of medicine. They would have developed the capability to deconstruct complex problems into smaller chunks, and shift between specific elements of a larger problem. Most importantly, they will have already made preparations for the exact scenario they’ve found themselves in – because they already know the importance of being consciously aware of all possible outcomes in any given scenario.
By comparison, someone with low levels of C.F might simply give up and do something completely unrelated to their studies for fear of failure.
If you’ve only ever learned to play to the rule-book (instead of building the skills necessary to thrive in any environment) how can you be expected to survive when that system is ripped from underneath your feet?
The point is: in order to survive in a world of rapid advancements and instability, cognitive flexibility is absolutely essential.
So how do we ensure our teenagers have the necessary cognitive flexibility to thrive when they graduate?
How you can help your child develop cognitive flexibility
- Mix up your daily routine. Changing up the after-school-formula is a good way to flex your teen’s cognitive muscles. Even making the smallest of changes, like asking your teen to cook dinner instead of you, or going on a family outing to the movies instead of the usual TV routine, will help to build and strengthen new neural pathways in your teen’s mind.
- Expose your teen to new experiences. The less sheltered your child’s upbringing, the easier they will adapt to new circumstances later in life. Furthermore, when teens can see their lives in relationship to others (especially those that are less advantaged) they tend to show more gratitude, motivation and compassion. Let them watch the news. Visit areas and go to events outside of your comfort zone. Mix up your social circles. Volunteer and travel when possible. Expose your teenager to a diverse range of perspectives, opinions and voices – not just the ones you encounter everyday in your bubble.
- Promote independence. If you put trust in your teen’s ability to make decisions, evaluate situations and take risks for themselves – they’ll not only mature more quickly, they’ll also learn to adapt to hardship and overcome hurdles more effectively. Helicopter parenting is a surefire way to ensure cognitive stunting. Allowing space for mistakes means learning lessons more powerfully, and building the skills and independent thinking to navigate new circumstances.