The soft skills your child must learn

Skills for the future

The World Economic Forum (Future of Jobs Report) predicts that the skill set that will be needed in the future will vary significantly from what is currently desirable in the market. Skills such as complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity will top the list, while adaptability and emotional intelligence are both included in the top 10 skills for the first time.

Are schools teaching children the right skills?

Though it may seem simple for some that a school should teach children the life skills they will need tomorrow, for teachers this requires a change in emphasis from traditional content-based teaching.

A simple example is teaching children soft skills like collaboration (the ability to work with others to achieve a common aim). Teachers know that without explicit training in collaboration skills children find working in groups to be difficult. The act of collaboration can get in the way of achieving success in a task and the level of achievement out of group work can be less than the sum of its parts. It can be hard to assess children’s contribution to a group, and often one or two strong students will do nearly all the work, while others add very little. But if we teach collaboration skills explicitly then the children become better and better at it. They start to understand that the whole can be greater than the parts, and to understand their particular role in a group project.

We know that collaboration is important and surveys of valuable 21st Century skills always include it high on the list. If you ask employers of university graduates what abilities are most important in prospective employees, they will always include working in a team as one of the key strengths they seek. Most work, these days, is collaborative so we need to be able to work in this way.

Your child’s education should give them a space to develop the skills and knowledge they will need to thrive in the future. Being able to memorise things is no longer a determining skill for success - not when we all have a computer at our fingertips to access any information we need. Schools need to evolve the idea from there is an amount of material to be learned and this is most efficiently done individually to learning to work with others is an aim in itself, and so we need to teach it, practice it and perfect it. 

When we drill down into what we mean by collaborative skills we discover there is a great deal that the students must learn and understand. For example, a team thrives from different roles that complement each other such as those who lead and make decisions; those who think out of the box and expand the vision; those that ensure the ideas are practically achievable; those who present the ideas and conclusions; those who ensure harmony in disputes and those who ensure contributions from all. Children need to be taught what these roles are, how to understand what role they are adopting and when to change to a different one because it is needed.

Empowering the leaders of tomorrow

Markham College has developed a comprehensive skills framework that describes the development of critical skills from 3 to 18-year-olds. Students monitor their own skills which help them understand what they are trying to achieve and this, in itself, aids their development. This framework links together the different areas they work in, whether these are academic or outside the classroom on trips, service projects, sports or the arts, helping them recognise the skills and abilities they develop in each of these activities as well as reflect on those areas they still need to focus on and propose ways in which they can further develop these.