Future Learning

“My interest is in the future, because I am going to spend the rest of my life there.”

Charles F. Kettering

We live in a world of unprecedented and exponential change. We have witnessed an explosion of information, new technologies, digital communications, as well as economic and cultural globalization.

There are now many studies that have been undertaken to help us understand what is driving this change and understand the life and work skills that are increasingly being sort after now and will be essential in the future. Global connectivity, smart machines big data, new media and are some of the changes that are re-shaping how we think about work, what constitutes work, and the skills that will be needed to be productive contributors in the future.

The Institute For the Future describes 6 drivers of change – extreme longevity, rise of smart machines and systems, new media ecology, globally connected world, computational world and supersized organizations.

“In this world of constant change, learning never stops. Today’s workplace requires employees to think on their feet, make decisions and solve problems. It is essential that our youth are prepared with the critical thinking and reasoning skills necessary to excel in their studies and the workforce in order to thrive in a global economy.”

– Helen Soule ‘Partnership for 21st Century Learning’

It is widely accepted that nearly half of all current jobs in the USA developed and other developed economies will be susceptible to computerization by 2035. Advances in and the pace of development of Artificial Intelligence and automation are still unfolding and will deepen this impact even further. This requires our students to develop a unique adaptability, an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, and specific future ready skills and attitudes that are not part of traditional school curriculums. To be successful not only today but also in the future, students must possess these strong core competencies:

  • Civic Literacy & Global Awareness
  • Financial, Economic, Business and Entrepreneurial Literacy
  • Health Literacy
  • Environmental Literacy
  • Information Technology & Media Literacies
  • Digital Citizenship

Life and Career Skills

The ability to navigate the complex life and work environments in the globally competitive information age requires students to pay rigorous attention to developing adequate life and career skills, including :

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Initiative and Self-Direction
  • Social and Cross-Cultural Skills
  • Productivity and Accountability
  • Leadership and Responsibility

A 2016 World Economic Forum report on the future of work predicts that in the coming years, over one-third of skills (35%) considered important in today’s workforce will have changed. By 2020, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will have brought us advanced robotics and autonomous transport, artificial intelligence and machine learning, big data, the Internet of Things, advanced materials, biotechnology and genomics. These developments will transform the way we live and the way we work.

What is certain is that the future workforce will need a new set of skills and abilities to keep pace. These new skills are already in high demand and a global undersupply is already evident. Top global companies are scouting university for students before they even graduate.

There have been many approaches to documenting these future work skills. At one time they were described as 21st century skills, more recently as 2020 skills, but as 2020 approaches they are really the work skills for today!

The Institute for the Future describes 10 work skills for 2020 –

1 Sense Making

2 Novel and Adaptive Thinking

3 Social Intelligence

4 New Media Literacy

5 Transdisciplinarity

6 Computational Thinking

7 Cognitive Load Management

8 Cross Cultural Competency

9 Design Mindset

10 Virtual Collaboration

In 2015 the World Economic Forum, in its Future of Jobs Report published its list of the top 10 work skills needed for 2020. The similarity is very evident.

  1. Solving Complex Problems
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People Management
  5. Coordinating with People
  6. Emotional Intelligence
  7. Judgement and Decision Making
  8. Service Orientation
  9. Negotiation
  10. Cognitive Flexibility

The relative importance of these skills is constantly being reassessed. Creativity and Critical Thinking are skills that have quickly become more highly valued as indicated in the 2015 edition of the World Economic Forum Work Skills. ‘Creativity’ jumped in ranking from number 10 to 3 and Critical Thinking from number 4 to 2.

Schools need to respond rapidly to ensure students are acquiring these skills – young children are naturally full of questions and creativity, however this has been less valued and at worse stifled in favor of acquiring knowledge and competencies which are now being taken over by smart machines and artificial intelligence.