Imagine you made all manner of sacrifices to get your child into the best school in the neighbourhood, in the belief that you were doing the right thing and giving them the best possible foundation.

Now, imagine that years later that belief was shattered and what you thought was the very best was, in fact, pretty mediocre and didn’t actually get anywhere close to equipping them for life and the challenges they would face.

Are we actually asking ourselves whether schools are preparing children now for the decades ahead? Are our schools preparing children with the motivation, mind-sets and first level skills to lead their lives?

Today’s Education Needs to Change

Jack Ma, the Chinese business magnate and philanthropist, believes that education needs to change. There’s not a shadow of doubt in his mind that the schoolchildren of 2018 will face a future awash with machines and he supports the prediction that by 2030 robots will replace 800 million jobs.

He challenges the today’s education establishments to wake up to what’s almost upon us.

“If we don’t change the way we teach, in future years we’ll be in trouble. We’re teaching the things we taught 200 years ago… It is knowledge based and we can’t teach our children to compete with machines, they need to be smarter. Teachers must stop teaching knowledge!”

What’s Missing – What are our Children Not being Prepared For?

So this week I decided to ask a bunch of my friends a question. I send them an email (old school), asking for no more than a 1-word answer – I didn’t want to push my luck!

I asked… ‘What’s missing – what are our children & young people not being taught or being prepared for in their life ahead, within their families and at school?

Within 10 minutes I got my first reply. I was amazed. And the answers rolled in all day, all as varied, interesting and as bespoke as the individuals themselves.

1. Courage to Fail

A friend in New Zealand said children need ‘courage to fail, because failure is a part of success’. I smiled, as she’s one of the most courageous women I know. She’s passionate about inclusivity in schools and teaching young children to appreciate ethnic and indigenous diversity.

2. Compassion and Patience

Then came… ’Children need to learn compassion and patience, to think of the needs of others and learn to wait for fulfillment’. “YES!!” I heard myself saying out load.

3. Resilience, Self-Belief, Confidence

Other emails said,

‘Resilience; the ability to bounce back’

‘Self-awareness, self-belief & emotional intelligence’

‘Confidence in themselves.’

4. What is of Real Value

Then a dear friend whose husband is struggling with poor health writes these words…’We must learn what is real; what is of real value’.

5. How to Make Good Choices

Another email from Rwanda came with these words, ‘what kids need to learn/grasp for life is how to make good choices and about making sacrifices for others’.

6. Life and Leadership Skills

Each email carried powerful words born from each person’s life experience because we not only need to endure and survive life’s dramas, but also to thrive and flourish. So we need a hotchpotch of daily life skills in today’s education system…‘Renting/buying a house, car basics, relationship skills, understanding yourself, teaching on psychology of people and spirituality …and of course…. how to be a leader’.

I was fascinated by the responses, from teaching about the ‘patriarchy and how to dismantle it’, to ‘teaching coding’, because, ‘it gives you another perspective on how things work and are built. It can be a creative outlet. You never stop learning and it’s proven to help keep your brain young’.

We Need to Teach Soft Skills…Because our Children are Uniquely Smarter than Robots

They were all such brilliant answers, but I also noticed, within their folds, a sense of an opportunity missed while young to be equipped more appropriately for life through today’s education systems.

They made me want to rewrite the whole national curriculum, as I imagined a new era where schools are committed to more worthwhile and vital outcomes… none of which would require an exam.

With his mind very much focused on artificial intelligence, Jack Ma says,

“We have to teach our children something unique, so machines can’t catch up with us…schools need to teach children soft skills: VALUES & BELIEFS, INDEPENDENT THINKING, TEAMWORK and the CARE OF OTHERS (empathy & compassion)”.

So what will it take for the old knowledge-driven system to be deposed after its long reign?  How do we change today’s education into something that will truly equip children for what lies ahead?  How do we help our children be:

  • fully alive and at home with their own thoughts and beliefs,
  • equipped with entrepreneurial mind-sets,
  • courageous in problem solving,
  • mindful & robust mentally,
  • excited to learn about their world and
  • able to behave compassionately towards their planet?

What will the children of today thank us for?

My hope is that we work with them to enable them to become their own unique selves for a unique and unknown future, so they can lead their lives with courage and resourcefulness….because they are uniquely smarter than robots.