Jeremy Lewis, Head of School at ACS Egham International School, looks at ways you can ensure your child is prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century workplace
What will today’s children be when they enter the workplace? With the rapid pace of change in society and the furious advance of new technologies, it’s increasingly hard to predict both what and where new jobs will be.
The World Economic Forum estimated that six in ten children today will have careers that, as yet, simply don’t exist. And very recently, IT firm, Cognizant, created a list citing 21 possible ‘jobs of the future’. These included some thought-provoking job titles including Cyber Attack Agent, Algorithm Bias Auditor and Head of Machine Personality Design.
It’s interesting how we all take for granted that the jobs of the future will be created primarily in IT and technical industries, but what really struck me about this list, was just how many of these so called ‘new jobs’ also alluded to a high degree of creativity.
I was greatly encouraged by this as it suggests that it’s
by following a broad and well-rounded curriculum that
our children will be best prepared for these new and challenging roles.
STEAM vs STEM
At ACS, we believe in the STEAM approach. This is STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), with the addition of the arts.
While an education focused on STEM will help prepare students for scientific fields, studying the arts is clearly increasingly important and relevant in industries that rely on innovators and creative minds to generate new ways of thinking about the world.
It’s the people who can truly synthesise ideas and create new and exciting options who will be headhunted as the next Cyber Attack Agent or Virtual Identity Defender, so by encouraging students in drama, music or the visual arts as much as we do in traditional STEM subjects, we can truly help them develop the imagination needed for the pioneering industries of the 21st century.
Building an entrepreneurial mindset
We also believe, in tandem to this, that developing an entrepreneurial mindset can provide a strong foundation for success in these pioneering industries and indeed create new ones.
Our own report Inspiring Entrepreneurship in Education underpins this view. The report presents research commissioned by the National Centre for Entrepreneurship in Education (NCEE) and ACS International Schools amongst Heads of Enterprise (HoEs) in 62 universities across the UK and cites that 90 per cent of HoEs believe more should be done at school level to develop entrepreneurship competence in students.
What’s more, considering perceived barriers to entrepreneurship in schools, two thirds of university HoEs believe narrowing of subject choices has a negative impact on entrepreneurship interest amongst students.
Factors that have a positive impact on students’ interest in enterprise and entrepreneurship by the time they arrive at university include the general ethos of the school; having teachers trained in entrepreneurship; the students’ peer groups; and the school teaching specific character-building skills.
And nearly two thirds of HoEs also believe that exposure to different nationalities and cultures while at school is highly beneficial to students’ entrepreneurial outlook.
Other positive factors include social media, crowdfunding sites, TV programmes, such as Dragon’s Den, and e-commerce.
Bottom of the list of factors were a lack of experience of failure and Brexit.
A qualification for the 21st century
In my view, our emerging generation of schoolchildren is, if anything more powerfully determined than the so-called ‘millennials’ to do things differently.
They see entrepreneurship as a way to independence and control in their careers and to making the world a better place. As such it’s vital that schools develop activities which create a springboard for students to explore and advance their entrepreneurial skills and ambition at university and beyond.
So, what can we all do to encourage and support students as they prepare for this brave new world?
At ACS we believe that the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) provides a great foundation. Offered at ACS Egham, the IBDP allows students to select a wide range of topics to study across the sciences, arts and languages. This means they graduate with a mix of skills rather than the comparatively narrow subject areas they would have to choose at A Level.
With A Levels, students often pick just three subjects whilst IB includes six, three at higher level and three at standard, which cover languages, social studies, science and maths.
And while it’s often cited that A Level students emerge with in-depth knowledge of their chosen subjects, I believe that this can sometimes push them too early down a set path that becomes difficult to deviate from later, especially when it comes to choosing university options.
It may be harder for an A Level student who only studied humanities to then change their mind and secure a place on a science degree, for example, and vice versa. The IB, with its broader span of subjects, keeps higher education options much more fluid, a great advantage.
As well as six IB subjects, students also undertake extra components which count towards their final grades, including a mandatory 4,000-word extended essay: while the IB’s ‘Theory of Knowledge’ component is designed to actually teach students how to apply knowledge to real-life situations.
A fundamental part of the IB is ‘Creativity, Action, Service’ or CAS which shows students the importance of extra-curricular activities as an integral part of life. As part of CAS projects, ACS students have built school facilities in Nepal, fundraised for Great Ormond Street Hospital and supported local charities.
Over the last decade, ACS research amongst university admissions officers has consistently cited the IB as the best preparation for university, outscoring A Levels on attributes such as encouraging independent inquiry, developing workplace skills, nurturing an open mind and creativity.
However, it’s important that students choose the right qualification and study programme for them as individuals, so it is always worthwhile discussing with teachers who also know your child and will advise on the right study programme for them. But what else can parents do?
Coming back to character-building skills, it is evident that we must also teach students resilience and show them how to take responsibility.
Just last week a new report suggested that many recent graduates lack the required mindset and determination to cut it in the workplace but, of course, the reasons underpinning this view are perfectly understandable. We’re all fed a constant media diet of horror stories about what could happen to our children if we leave them alone for any length of time.
And while social media platforms and smartphones make it simple to stay in touch, a downside is that our offspring have been taught from an early age to rely and depend on pervasive parental presence which, while well meant, may have reduced the ability of young people to make and learn from their own mistakes.
An exciting new world awaits our children, it is our job to teach them to make the most of it.
WAYS TO ENCOURAGE INDEPENDENT KIDS
Set them regular tasks at home to learn responsibility. It may be as simple as keeping their room in order, but do be prepared to impose rigid penalties for jobs not done – a reduction of pocket money, less treats, less online time for example. Make them realise that failure to deliver on agreed tasks has implications.
Let them organise their own school equipment such as a sport’s kit or project work, even if it is quicker and easier for you to do it.
Give them physical freedom to take informed risks. Playing sport and being part of a team is a great way to enable this. On the playing field they have no choice but to make their own decisions.
Teach them not to expect to have everything at once. Help them learn patience by creating more distant end goals and encourage them to save pocket money to buy that item they crave or earn the money to pay for it themselves.
ACS Egham International School is part of the ACS International Schools group, serving both local and global families since 1995. The school is non-sectarian and co-educational, enrolling over 550 students aged 3 to 18 years. ACS Egham was the first IB World School in the UK to offer all four International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes: the IB Primary Years, Middle Years, Diploma and Careers-related Programmes.
ACS Egham International School, Egham, Surrey
01784 430800 Twitter: @ACSEgham acs-schools.com
ACS International School
Chris Pearsall, Head of School
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