School skills for the 21st century

Publicado: 31 May, 2016

There is a huge disconnection between what students learn at school and the real world. There is inconsistency between what is taught and which skills are needed by current job positions. ¿Where will high school graduates work?

Furthermore, “In the future we will have jobs that do not yet exist, using technologies that have not been invented, in order to solve problems we do not even know are problems” (R. Riley, Secretary of Education, EE.UU.).

Indeed, routine and repetitive jobs (manual worker, employees and professionals) will be replaced by softwares or machines and robots. Projections suggest that 47% of all current jobs in U.S.A. will be automated by 2034.

Robots are here. The threat for future competitiveness with lower working costs will not come from China, but from robots.  ¿Which tasks will not be solved by robots? Non-routine tasks, where the “human touch” is needed: (a) Solving of unknown complex and unstructured problems that require conceptual abilities. (b) Use, processing and transmission of new information that requires the ability to discern between relevant and irrelevant information. (c) Jobs requiring interpersonal interaction.

On these days, there is a flood of information; the amount of information previously generated in a century, now is done in months. This requires different skills regarding the treatment of the information: Reading comprehension 20 years ago use to require following instructions; nowadays requires doing an efficient online research and being able to identify relevant information.

There are other key challenges in XXI century: increase of uncertainty and instability, increase of violence, revival of cultural chauvinism and rise of fundamentalism together with intolerance.

But, in addition, there are still pending challenges from XX century: (a) Distributive challenge: (i) closing two gaps: internal and external, (ii) an inclusive education NLO (“No one is left outside”). (b) Social challenge: (i) heterogeneous families, (ii) decrease in solidarity and social cohesion. (c) Economic challenge: (i) disappointment about progress, (ii) increase in youth unemployment. “¿Will there be god jobs in the future?”

Apparently, education is the way to face (¿solve?) these dilemmas. In fact, education is a key factor for economic and social transformation, at national and individual level. But school education has to change and prepare students for a complex world with unexpected challenges and also, for the satisfaction of their dreams and aspirations.

This educational change is linked with school skills acquisition for the XXI century, so they can understand: (a) Critical thinking: question, question, question, never stop questioning. (b) Creativity: you are born with certain amount, but it can also be acquired; we all have it when we are born. (c) Curiosity: Ask, ask, ask, always ask. (d) Teamwork: since a heterogeneous and diverse group generates productive feedback. (e) Communication: In XXI century, the information and communication century, oral and written ideas transmission are vital.

In acquiring school skills for XXI century, young students will have individual thinking and ability to resolve unknown problems, so they can have future self-fulfilment. Additionally, these skills will make our students compete with more advantageous ways next to another foreign students and future robots. The main problem is how to teach each one of these skills. This is the Fundación Chile’s working agenda for the next 2 years.