In its 1997 election manifesto, the Labour Party said this: “We must recognise the three ‘r’s for what they are – building blocks of all learning that must be taught better.” Almost two decades later, on the eve of another General Election, much has changed. As they seek to equip children for the work and life challenges of tomorrow, educationalists are looking beyond reading, writing and arithmetic. So what other skills will we value in the future? Here are just five…
One: Digital literacy
Not so long ago, computers were enormous machines which needed whole rooms to house them and whose limited functionality could be understood and operated only by university-educated scientists. Today, a two year old knows how to unlock her parents’ tablet, navigate to her favourite game and start playing. The world has changed dramatically in a few years, and digital literacy is increasingly seen as a fundamental requirement. Since September 2014 children as young as five have been learning how to code as part of the National Curriculum; by the age of 14 they will be expected to work in at least two operating languages.
Rumour has it that the American inventor Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” His determined approach is a great example of viewing difficulties as problems to be solved rather than insurmountable obstacles. As the saying goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!
It’s an odd contradiction that, while the majority of school assessment is individual, for most of us the majority of our professional and personal achievements are collective. Whether it’s a victory with the cricket team, a note-perfect performance with the orchestra or a breakthrough with colleagues, the ability to collaborate – to work together towards a common goal – is a vital life skill.
Four: Global awareness
Advances in travel and communication have made the world much smaller than it used to be. Your child probably already mixes with children from different countries at school, and they certainly will if they go to university and then into the workplace. Developing an awareness of the world and an empathy with people from other countries will be an increasingly important skill.
Creativity features not because we will come to prize it in the future, but because we must continue to prize it. In art, literature and music, as well as in science, technology and engineering, innovation, originality and self-expression have a crucial role to play.