Parenting, for all intent and purpose, is an expedition into the unknown. Books like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” set the tone for this journey that is, quite honestly, like negotiating a maze blindfolded.
With your hands tied behind your back.
Being led by a hungry toddler dragging a bike. In the rain.
You get the picture.
So how on earth do we, the parents, prepare our kids for a future that is so uncertain.
Will they be a social media manager? IOS developer? Drone operator? Podcast host? Uber driver? Mobile app developer, cloud service specialist, driverless car mechanic, blockchain analyst… all these jobs did not exist five to ten years ago, and now they are some of the fastest growing areas of employment out there.
The World Economic Forum estimates that 65% of children today will end up in careers that do not even exist yet. Our youth will be solving problems that don’t yet exist, with technology that doesn’t yet exist, in jobs that don’t yet exist.
How do we make sure they are equipped for that?
If we want the youth to be good at life as adults, they need to be prepared to face the unknown. And it all starts with the way we approach education and our language around what education is.
The work world has changed. Education must change too. Education needs to be more engaging, and teachers and parents need to know the best way to foster a love of learning and an inquisitive mind. They need to know how to acquire new information and how to evaluate it using their own critical thinking, as well as being aware on a higher level of emotional intelligence.
So again I ask you, how on earth do we prepare them now, for that eventuality.
Reading, writing and arithmetic will of course still be important, but with the likes of voice to text, spell check, calculators and Excel, we are forced to question if those skills will carry the same importance for the future? What skills will really prepare them for their futures? Are they getting the necessary skills they will need to arm themselves for the uncertainty that lies ahead? The traditional learner in me balks at the thought that they may not use mental maths anymore, but then again, how many of your children can write in cursive? It is a skill that we spent hours on before, and yet a lot of schools have done away with it completely.
There are questions and considerations we as parents need to reflect on. We need to stop bedding down like ostriches in our little comfort zones and ask the important questions. What are the future skills that will matter?
The scary part of that though, is that we don’t have the answers. How could we?
Thirty years ago, music came from round black nylon discs. Now our favourite albums exist in a cloud. Thirty years ago we could never have imagined such a reality, we would have thought the person telling us was ridiculous. It would have made no sense as we did not have the knowledge to comprehend that yet. Our parents could never have imagined that reality for us either just like we don’t have a clue what the youth of today will consider ‘normal’ in their world in thirty years’ time.
Before you think I have disproved my point, please note that it took 71 years for us to go from the first human voice recording in 1877, to LPs in 1948. But once we went digital, with CDs in 1982, it only took 11 years to get to cloud storage for our music.
The rapid rate of change and development is accelerating daily and is like nothing ever experienced before.
So what can we do to prepare them?
Executives all over the world have been asked what they believe the most important job skills will be in the future, and their top responses included complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and emotional intelligence.
Basic education will still be essential, but the way we encourage them to approach opportunities to learn or solve problems needs to evolve. Preparing them for the future means they need to adapt and know how to adapt. They need to be creative in problem-solving and have good self-awareness and insight. They need to be resilient and know what skills they have to offer the world. They need to appreciate and understand collaboration. They need to recognise that collaborative efforts lift every member of a group or team and can take a team to the next level.
And that, fellow parents, is what we need to be thinking about to prepare them.
It is our job to ensure their education teaches them those skills. Ensure they are given ample opportunities to experience and develop those skills. Ensure that they are accomplished in those areas, so that whatever their futures may bring, they have the resilience, critical thinking skills, creativity, collaboration, and EQ to stay the course. Let us think of education to develop our most impactful abilities so that when those abilities are actualised, they can benefit our selves, and our world. Let us use education to open minds, expand our selves, and allow us to improve life around the globe.
As our late, very wise president said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” and that dear parents, no pressure, is how we need to prepare our youth for the unpredictable future they are facing.