The era of a job for life is long gone, the era of a career for life is ending. Today's school leavers require a quite different set of skills from those required in the past. Meanwhile, the government plays the fiddle.
The radical changes announced by the UK government are about as radical as a new coat of paint on the school hall.
Letters are going to be replaced by numbers. An ‘A star’ for a GCSE is being replaced by a ‘nine’. Critics say the change will confuse employers. They will indeed, for about 30 seconds. Really, the new system is about as confusing as learning how to sing 'All things Bright and Beautiful'.
In the new approach to education there will be increased emphasis on maths, grammar, punctuation, and reading the classics such as Shakespeare and Dickens. This new emphasis replaces the old approach which emphasised maths, grammar and punctuation.
All that is really new is Shakespeare and Dickens, which is an important change, as in the era of accelerating digital disruption, knowing your Shakespeare as well as your grandparents did is a vital skill.
According to Tony Wagner, an Expert in Residence at Harvard University’s new Innovation Lab and a Senior Research Fellow at the Learning Policy Institute, there are seven skill sets people will need to in the next few decades:
- Critical thinking and problem solving
- Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
- Agility and adaptability
- Initiative and entrepreneurship
- Effective oral and written communication
- Assessing and analysing information
- Curiosity and imagination
This begs the question: how will the new reforms engender the creation of the required skills?
In Finland, an experiment is underway to scrap silos, an idea all people who have looked at digital transformation are familiar with. So, the plan in Finland is to ditch dividing the curriculum into subjects but teach kids in groups, setting projects that require multiple skills - maths, language, foreign language, science maybe history and geography, and above all collaborative learning.
“Teachers will find it hard to teach entrepreneurship when they have not experienced it themselves,” says Neeta Patel, a judge at the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards and CEO of the New Entrepreneurs Foundation. She adds: “Who is teaching the teacher? There is no government programme as there is in the US. We can’t expect schools to develop entrepreneurial school children if the teachers don’t know how to develop them. The problem with British Schools is where they invest their money. There should be countrywide government intervention and financial help to build entrepreneurship in schools.”
Matt Smith: Director at The Centre for Entrepreneurs says that “they have still not embedded entrepreneurship into the curriculum, at the school/college level. There is a lot more that the government can do to incentivise universities to teach entrepreneurship to students and also to help entrepreneurs and local businesses to work together.”
EJ Packe, Managing Director of The Supper Club, and a judge at this year’s NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards put it this way: “I do think that primary and secondary schools need to have an overhaul in the way they teach; they are in danger of stifling creativity, which matters more given the speed with which things are changing in technology.”
So enough talk about the current plans being radical, let's have some proper digital transformation.