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How teachers can prepare students for a life beyond academia

To set young people up for a future of success, teachers need to develop the skills of effective questioning, decision making and problem solving, says Carl Morris, Head of Private Tutors, Carfax Education 

In our world today, change happens at lightning speed. New careers and job roles are emerging around the world. However, while the world of work is changing and future careers are impossible to predict, this isn’t being reflected in education in the same way. While methods of teaching have had to adapt recently due to the pandemic, when it comes to curriculums, they have remained largely unchanged in the past 50 years. 

However,  this is being challenged. A recent report by the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) highlighted that 94% of education leaders, parents and students believe that GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) is outdated and called for urgent reform. Moreover, this consensus is also being backed by employers. 

Meanwhile, The Times Education Commission found that one in seven companies give no consideration l to GCSE or A-level grades or university degrees, while  only half of employers surveyed think current curriculums provide young people with the skills they need.

So when it comes to education, what needs to change? And how can educators bring more relevant skills into their lessons?

Encourage failure 

With  45% of A-level students in the UK awarded top grades last year, there is a growing  pressure on teachers and other students to secure  top grades as well. 

It is important to understand that being comfortable with failure is equally essential, both at school and beyond the confines of education. Creating a safe space for students  to attempt a challenge  at the risk of getting it wrong not only prepares them  for the world of work but also builds their confidence and develops key skills like creative problem solving. Teachers should encourage students to learn from the process, regardless of the outcome. 

Cross subject exploration 

Cross subject exploration is a great way to observe  the world from a wider perspective. It engages  students  and creates lessons that will stay with them for a longer period of time. From teaching science through Minecraft, Math through robotics or creative writing through video game development, there are multiple  ways to innovate traditional subjects.

Nurture creativity

. Due to the nature of learning today where students get to equate creativity only with certain subjects such as art and design, there are chances that they might not carry forward creativity into later stage of their lives.. Also, students decide at a very early stage in their lives whether they fit into the ‘creative box’ or not. However, creativity is required everywhere, and it needs to be nurtured before we lose it. In 1992 George Land gave a NASA creativity test to a group of adults and a group of young children. A staggering 98% of the five year olds who took part in the test scored ‘genius level’,  while the proportion of 21 year olds with the same score was only 2%. It shows that encouraging creative thinking in every lesson and pushing the limits of the basic curriculum will have a positive impact on students later in life.    

Inspire curiosity 

Children ask a lot of questions. And then at some point many of them stop. Education tends to focus on convergent thinking – judging existing ideas, critiquing them and refining them. But what really needs to be encouraged  in youngsters  is divergent thinking, like imagining new ideas and  coming up with multiple  solutions for one problem.. It encourages them  to ask questions  and understand that sometimes there isn’t just one right answer. Some of the best learning happens when students  explore their subjects beyond the curriculum and research what genuinely interests them.  

Redefine measures of success 

We need to look at changing the fundamental definitions of success in academia. Pressure on teachers to hit KPIs has led to a trend in teaching young people how to pass exams – rather than exploring subjects to their full potential. Instead of focussing on the right answers, teachers should encourage students to look at what they have learned along the way – and what they would do differently next time. 

Taking a more holistic approach to learning,  developing the skills of effective questioning, decision making and problem solving is what will prepare students for the future .

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