How to prepare young people for the future of work and lifelong learning

“With little idea about the jobs of the future, the key responsibility of the education system is to equip young people with the skills needed to manoeuvre this ever-changing landscape.”

With the future of work and learning having been the key focus at Quest2Learn Summit 2019, Dr Anantha Duraiappah – Director of the UNESCO MGIEP – helped map the landscape of education to make sense of the opportunities that lie in lifelong learning.

Here’s a thought-provoking excerpt from his keynote speech at the Summit:

This is where the idea of self-motivated learning becomes valuable.

The ever-changing landscape of the workplace have led to a growing focus on preparing individuals to develop characteristics of lifelong learning. Quest Alliance (QA) – not-for-profit centred around education – focuses on creating environments in which a learner takes charge of their learning journeys. They are encouraged to decide what they want to learn, why, when and how. When the drive to learn emerges from one’s self, there are lesser externalities causing pressure in the learner – and the change (learning) happens spontaneously and quickly. 

An education for ‘human flourishing’
According to Dr Duraiappah, the need of the hour is to develop an education system meant for human flourishing – one that provides capabilities for each individual. With everything being in a constant state of flux, we do not have a clear understanding of what jobs of the future are going to look like. Young people need to be equipped with the skills to maneuver this ever-changing landscape – that is what the education system needs to do. 

QA focuses on how non-cognitive skills enables a learner to excel in their cognitive skills. 

Through its  life skills curriculum and the pedagogy of placing learners’ needs at the center of its interventions, the organization ensures that the values of self-learning – one that hinges upon the values of autonomy, freedom, responsibility, trust and respect – are honored.

“With little idea about the jobs of the future, the key responsibility of the education system is to equip young people with the skills needed to manoeuvre this ever-changing landscape.”

In fact, self-learning challenges the existing formal structures of learning, breaks the hierarchy and power associated with traditional teacher-student relationships and creates opportunities for more meaningful and equal relationships that enhances the learning process.

“Any new approach has to be based on science and evidence,” he said. “What I find surprising in the education sector is that there is very little science – one that promotes critical thinking and social emotional skills – brought into the whole,” he added.

The brain is not just rational, but social too. What we have primarily focused in the last 300 years is on the rational dimension alone. However, when we make decisions, they are influenced by emotions as well and we often do not realize that. Furthermore, science has shown that the brain’s neural networks are constantly developing – it keeps changing form as one learns and this aspect should not be ignored by the education system.

Students should be encouraged to question everything and be experimental in their learning approach – that sense of curiosity should be nurtured right from their formative years. “The social and emotional learning (SEL) approach at UNESCO emphasizes on mindfulness, empathy, compassion and critical inquiry, in addition to training the rational side of the brain,” he said.

Much like this, all of QA’s models are rooted in the belief that students need to be equipped with  skills for the 21st century, including the ability to ask critical questions, have a solution-oriented mindset, articulate themselves confidently and build supportive relationships.

Over the years, it has worked with all stakeholders in the system – trainers, principals and government functionaries – to build their capacity in understanding 21st century skills and self-learning. Through  technology-enabled blended learning modules, all these stakeholders are coached on the importance of self-learning and 21st century skills, the role of a facilitator, using technology for teaching and increasing engagement in classrooms. Incidentally, it also reduces dependency on formal learning spaces, creating opportunities for anytime, anywhere learning.

For more insights on the education and skilling space, you can visit Quest2Learn Summit 2019.

Author: thelearnerbyquest

Quest Alliance's space for reflection on the education sector

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