he education systems that exist today were developed for students whose lives were vastly different from the lives of students at present.

In an increasingly interconnected and complex world, how can education effectively equip young people with the skills to comprehend differing perspectives, considering that factual recall might be less significant?

With access to information just a click away, education is no longer just about filling students' minds with facts. Instead, it is about teaching them how to adapt to a rapidly changing world and become effective lifelong learners.

The idea of 21st-century skills has become more popular as both the workplace and education have evolved to meet the demands of the modern world.

The EIU, with sponsorship from Google, initiated a research program to investigate the extent to which educational systems worldwide are altering the skills they teach.

The EIU organized a meeting of education experts and conducted in-depth interviews to investigate the issues above.

This report utilizes feedback from the advisory board, interviews, and global surveys of senior business executives, teachers, and two distinct groups of students - one aged between 11 and 17 and the other aged between 18 and 25. 

The skills recommendations

Problem-solving is cited as the most prevalent workplace skill in other surveys. Communication is ranked as the second most important skill for 18-25-year-olds, while it is the third most crucial skill for 11-17-year-olds. 

Teachers, students and executives surveyed for this report all list problem-solving as the most critical skill for students' future.

The skills gap

The report explores the gap between the skills students learn in school and the skills they need for the future, especially in the context of rapid technological change and global challenges.

Executives are not satisfied with the level of attainment of young people entering their companies, as reported by only 34% of them. Furthermore, 52% confirm a skills gap could improve their organization's performance.

The situation is similar for older students and those entering the workforce, as only 44% of 18-25-year-olds believe that the education system provides the necessary skills to enter the country's workforce. 

The young have become more used to learning on their own what they are interested in 62% of teachers report that students are becoming more independent and able to gather information themselves.

Executives consider problem-solving (mentioned by 50% of respondents), teamwork (35%), and communication (32%) to be the top three crucial skills that their companies require. Furthermore, they expect these skills to become more significant in three years.

The best education can hope to do is to equip students with sufficiently transferable skills to be able to respond to whatever the future holds.

What are experts saying

"We always think that what we have today is what our children will live with tomorrow, But our children will create the future. We need to train people to have the creativity to reinterpret the world." - Yong Zhao.

Just 28% of younger students think their school is very good at using technology in lessons. A majority of teachers (58%) say their students have a more advanced understanding of technology in their classrooms than they do

"Knowledge matters when hiring someone, but I'm seeking a team player. Part of teamwork is inherent as a skill. Still, you can start developing it at a very early age—by getting children to work in teams rather than sitting at their desk, for example." - Amit Dar, director of Global Education at the World Bank.

"Workplaces are becoming more team-oriented". -  Patrick Griffin, chair of Education (Assessment) at the University of Melbourne. 

"From a Ghanaian perspective, students go to school and think their main purpose is to pass exams, but exams are temporary," says Joshua Baku

"ICT skills are no longer an option; they're basic skills for operating in society," says Brett O'RileyO'Riley, chief executive of Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development. 

 "Students are light years ahead of their teachers—they don't remember a world without these tools," said Sean Rush, president and chief executive officer of JA Worldwide.

"South Africa has a far greater gap between the educational outcomes of rich and poor students than elsewhere in the world, and if we do nothing, technology will exacerbate that. But suppose you provide technological access to poorer kids and point them in the right direction. In that case, it enables individual learning, networking and collaboration." - Brian Schreuder, deputy director-general, Curriculum and Assessment Management, Western Cape Education Department. 

“we are not going to be able to predict the skillsthat people will need in 20 years”. - Yong Zhao.

Education must, therefore, concern itself more than ever with developing skills to interrogate knowledge, find it for oneself, and respond to rapidly changing situations. 

Although the importance of knowledge is still recognized, there is a shift in the expectation that the same expertise will remain valuable in the future. The responses from the surveys and interviews in this report acknowledge the rapid pace of change in the workplace and society.

Consequently, education must prioritize the development of skills that enable individuals to question, seek out and apply knowledge and adapt to evolving circumstances.

Jan 28, 2024
Digital Learning

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