Every child should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential. However, their futures are greatly dependent on the acquisition of certain essential skills during their education. Is the current results-driven focus of many traditional systems around the world failing students, by not allowing them to develop the range of skills they need after their education?

Most schools are bound to league tables as a measurement of quality, resulting in an ill-advised pressure on student outcomes. Pupils are taught to memorise textbook answers for the sole purpose of passing examinations, and rarely are teachers or students afforded the flexibility to go beyond this. When the focus is not actually on learning but on reciting answers, indispensable skills often get lost.

So, what proficiencies do students need to develop? Regardless of industry or geography, the skills deemed desirable by employers remain the same; the ability to find, synthesise, and utilise information. Businesses want people who can think critically, analyse, problem solve, and innovate; people who can shift between team-based activities and autonomous work seamlessly. It is important to be both creative and collaborative, as well as inquisitive and evaluative, but an outdated system means that this isn’t the standard outcome for every school student today. It’s time for change.

Numerous life skills are attainable during school years if students are given the space to self-direct their learning. This can be accommodated by a “flipped” classroom, meaning that students do all of their ‘knowledge gain’ on their own via assigned reading, watching online video content and listening to podcasts, for example. Then, within the classroom the learners participate in activities that put their knowledge to use, engaging in discussions around the subject matter. It’s a style used at university level, but with the correct teacher support and monitoring of student progress, is also incredibly beneficial to younger learners.

In this approach, the role of the teacher is more important than ever. Educators find the balance between directing the flow of learning and giving students freedom, whilst providing the support needed at every stage. This encouraging and yet “hands-off” method shifts the control from teacher to learner, and as a result the classroom becomes a more engaging, intellectually curious environment. When the classroom is more animated and students are more inquisitive, thoughtful collaboration between peers becomes commonplace. In this atmosphere, students thrive in groups and as individuals. These are children who are equipped with the capacity to reach their full potential, regardless of their circumstances.

A child’s education needs to arm them with crucial skills not just for their futures but for the future. When the quality of education is neglected as a result of league table schooling, we are stunting our own progress. These children are the leaders of tomorrow, and if we are not doing all we can to inspire and nurture the necessary life skills then we are not preparing them for the inevitable challenges the next 50 years will bring; what will the next generation need to be able to do in order to face them?

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