Preparing students for an unpredictable future
Education Development Trust's Chief Executive, Patrick Brazier, took to the stage in Muscat on Sunday 15 September with a keynote speech at the MENA Innovation event sharing our experience on a key societal theme in the region and beyond: how schools can prepare students for an unpredictable future.
With technology fundamentally changing labour markets, even making some professions obsolete, the future employment landscape for todays’ children is uncertain. The challenge for educational policymakers in this context is how to adapt policy and get teachers trained to best prepare children for different types of work in the future. Teachers need guidance and this needs to happen at scale to make a genuine difference to the future readiness for the workplace of the next generation.
Education faces many of the same challenges the world over – however, context can change everything, making these challenges more pressing in many cases. In the Middle East this debate is very live as there are huge youth populations, with median ages in these countries in the 20s (compared to around 40 in the UK, US and Australia).
We know that a key part of the response is for educational systems to focus on character and life skills as well as academic outcomes, and to keep the curriculum broad.
From an early age, children should be encouraged to find out about the world of work. The curriculum should emphasise the vast range of possibilities open to children, to challenge stereotypes and to encourage them to keep their options open for as long as possible.
How children learn is also important. Student life chances and future earnings depend on cognitive learning in literacy, numeracy and scientific understanding. This needs to combine with an emphasis on workplace competencies such as creativity and teamwork, and the development of character qualities such as resilience and initiative.
Finally, education systems and schools should have in place a systematic approach to work and career themes and access to up-to-date labour market information, specialist guidance and experiences for older students about to enter the workforce.
These foundations are a precondition of an agile and effective workforce.