As an educator, you strive to mold your students into bright, responsible individuals.
And as our country grows, so does your responsibility. By 2020, India will have the world’s largest young workforce. How many of them are employable? How many are getting into fields they actually enjoy and are good at? And how many are simply selecting a path that’s ‘secure’ or ‘financially beneficial’ in the long run?
For years, we’ve been prioritizing stability and security over interests when it comes to choosing a career. Up until a few years ago, the career you chose wasn’t likely to evolve at the frenzied pace it is currently going through. Today, the Technological Revolution is well underway and changing the way we approach jobs. A study by the World Economic Forum revealed that by 2022, nearly one-fifth of the world’s workforce will feel the impact of AI-related advancements in their workplace. Does it still make sense to prioritise ‘stability’ over interests, when just about every career could drastically transform thanks to technological advancements?
Think back to a time just ten years ago, when Instagram didn’t exist. Today, marketers use it as one of their primary platforms for reaching out to the youth. Instagram has made it easier for brands to directly connect with their audience, and relatively simpler for just about anyone to start and grow a business online! It gave rise to a whole new breed of celebrities - ‘influencers’ whose opinions on the latest trends are religiously followed by their thousands of followers. That’s just one social media platform, which only came to life towards the end of 2010. Now think about all the technological revolutions and innovations that spring up on an almost-daily basis. Are your students aware of how their future is rapidly evolving? We don’t think so.
Changing the Approach to Education
While updating the curriculum seems like the obvious answer, it’s going to take a lot more to build a nation of future-ready students. This article shares the simple but effective approaches you - as an educator - can take up to help your students cope with the challenges that lie ahead.
1. Making Sense of Information
Up until a few decades ago, students relied heavily upon a formal education to prepare themselves for the world. Today, if they fail to understand a concept in class, they can find a simpler version of the lesson via a Google search, making Google an educator’s biggest, most fierce competitor. Within seconds, they will have access to videos, charts, pictures, apps, presentations and activity sheets on the concept, something that would probably take you a few days to put together.
However, this ease of access can not only be stressful, it also makes them vulnerable to misinformation in the form of fake news or propaganda material. As educators, you have the power to help them make sense of the information, learn the difference between right and wrong, and avoid getting overwhelmed by it. Help them focus on what’s relevant to them and what’s ‘idle browsing’. Insist on implementing ‘online time’ for fixed hours. Enlighten them on verifying information from multiple trusted sources before making decisions.
While you can’t compete against the information availability, you can guide them on deciphering that information and using it for their betterment instead of falling prey to hateful content.
2. Shifting Focus on Skill-based Learning
It is no secret that a majority of our workforce lacks the essential soft skills required to thrive in any organisations. This makes even the best of candidates lose out on good jobs, either because their communication skills are not up to par, or their critical thinking abilities were never honed. Our education system, while excellent at disseminating technical knowledge, sometimes fails to hone a student’s soft skills, which enables them to approach problems from multiple angles, communicate effectively or even perform basic ‘adulting’ tasks. While subject matter is continuously evolving, soft skill development essentially remains constant, and needs to be included as a part of your lessons. Help your students hone their soft skills early on, so they are better prepared for challenges they’re likely to encounter at their workplace. Pedagogical experts around the world are pushing for schools to focus on the four Cs - critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity - to help their youth become ‘future-ready’.
While it’s not possible to only have classes on soft-skill training, assign one class a week, or ten minutes of each class for skill development. This can be done through group activities, individual assignments, and more.
3. Prioritising Mental Health and Balance
In his book ‘21 lessons for the 21st century’, author Yuval Noah Harari talks about the importance of preserving mental balance to tackle the challenges of the 21st century. Our students are already stressed with their current academic demands, and their work life is only going to get that much harder. We need to help our students learn how to deal with change, to preserve their mental balance while facing challenging, unfamiliar situations and cope with the increasing demands of the 21st century. Unlike their parents, these students may not have the option of spending their lifetime in one career, as each career will dynamically evolve to adapt to newer technologies. They need to be able to cope with change, and you can help them build this coping mechanism right from the start.
4. Guiding Students Down the Right Path
It’s hard enough for experienced adults like us to make sense of our rapidly changing world. Now put yourself in the shoes of a teenager who is already overburdened with academic demands, peer pressure, familial expectations and so on. How is this teenager - with little to no idea of what lies ahead - supposed to choose a stream or subjects that determine their course? They have over 12,000 options to choose from, and now more than ever, it’s important for them to choose right. Every year, thousands of students in our country flock to engineering and management colleges with little to no interest in the subjects, only because they have been told that these are “promising” careers. As per a recent Aspiring Minds report, 95% of our country’s engineers were not fit for software development jobs. Meanwhile, an ASSOCHAM study states that 93% of the tens of thousands of MBA graduates are also unemployable, and often settle for salaries of less than INR 10,000 per month. An inherent interest in these fields would motivate students to develop the right skills and further their education in the subject, which is why it’s crucial that career decisions are taken on the basis of personal interests and not perceived prospects. You can partner with the right professionals and include career guidance as a part of your institution’s offering - this would not only benefit your students in making informed career decisions but also set your school apart from the crowd.
No matter how far technology progresses, the world will still need educators to help young minds understand it better and prepare for the challenges it throws in their way. Your role continues to remain as important as ever; however, your approach can be modified to help students cope with the demands of the 21st century. Equip your students with the abilities to be ‘future-ready’. Encourage them to adopt a ‘continuous learning’ approach to life (it’s the only way to remain relevant today) and be proactive about their learning, for it is only the quick who shall inherit this rapidly changing Earth.
Authored by Juie Divecha, who heads Content at Mentoria, a career discovery platform that helps individuals discover who they are and which career path they’re best suited for, primarily based on their interests. Her dream is to transform the nation and help it achieve its full potential by enabling the youth to find careers they’re happy, productive and successful at.
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