What are we preparing our children for?

Miss Abigail’s thought for the week: What are we preparing our kids for?

This week, I spoke at the Capital Club at their education forum, as one of the panel speakers, about how to develop the leaders of the future.  The other panellists were from the world of university and we discussed, amongst other things, the fact that the world of work does not feel that young people coming to them from school or from university possess the skills that they require for the job roles on offer.

This video shows Simon Sinek – an inspirational guy who calls himself an ‘optimist and author’ (check out his TED talks) – talking about ‘the problem with millennials’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ygBXbTnNv0

This highlights that a wider social and cultural shift is needed, as well as the evolution of education structures.  What worked in the ‘traditional’ schooling system no longer ‘creates successful young people’ because it isn’t preparing them for the right things.  So what do employers want today?  Both employers and universities are saying that top exam results are no longer the primary consideration.  So what skills are they looking for in young people coming into university or into the workplace?  Well…they look suspiciously like our 8Cs!  They want people who can think creatively and make new things / come up with new ideas; they want people who can take in a massive amount of information from multiple sources and think critically about what is important and true and useful; they want people who are prepared to work hard and commit themselves to a task or project, even when things go wrong; they want people who can collaborate well with anyone, even though working with other people is really hard a lot of the time; they want people who can communicate with people in different spheres and in different contexts; they want people who care about crafting the very best product that they are capable of and doing whatever it takes to make it right; they want people who have the confidence to work by themselves or within a team, or leading a team to success, as well as trying new things and developing new skills; they want people who are curious enough to care about the world around them and to ask questions and find out more.

This is why our 8Cs are so important and this is why we are unapologetic in pushing our agenda of skills and character education and we want to be really clear that the point of teaching these skills is that they make children better learners.  Sometimes we hear people say that ‘Nadeen is not very academic’, which highlights to us the lack of understanding of what it means to be academic.  Do we teach to the test? No.  Do we put pressure on children to attain highly at the cost of their social and emotional health?  No.  Do we pile on stacks of homework (which research shows is largely ineffective)? No.  Do we select according to ability, rather than recognising the strengths and potential of any child?  No.  Does any of this mean that we are not ‘academic’?  No.  It just means that we have a different understanding of what academic success looks like.  And our results speak for themselves: approximately 80% of the new children that come into our school have not (or would not have) passed the selective entrance tests at other schools, and yet, when they leave us in year 6, they do pass these tests.  In recent years, all of our year 6 children who have applied to St Chris or BSB have passed the tests and been accepted.  We scored the highest reading scores out of all Bahrain schools in the most recent PiRLS tests (an international test of reading and literacy).  It’s not a case of being ‘academic’ or ‘non-academic’ – it’s about seeing learning in a different way.  Our children are academically successful because their learning behaviours, emotional and social health and love of learning (real, deep learning – not text book / worksheet learning) are preparing them, we believe, for life beyond our school.  And we are really proud of that.