As a parent, you probably ask your children many interesting questions on a daily basis. “Who decided to give the hamster a bath?” and “Why did the dog eat your broccoli?” but you might want to avoid asking this: What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Psychologists are now cautioning against it. Apart from being completely unrelated to actual job skills, the worry is that the question teaches kids to define themselves solely in terms of work. And it may be why some kids today value success over caring about others. The question also implies that there is one profession that you choose when young – then that’s your job for the rest of your life. This may have been true for our parent’s generation, but today mid-career pivots are commonplace. And this is likely to be even more true in the future.
The jobs skills of the future
They may be practical reasons to refrain from asking kids about future employment, too.
“It’s highly likely many of our kids will be working in jobs that don’t even exist yet,” says PETER CORCORAN, Head of School at Canadian International School. “They will tackle challenges we don’t yet understand. And they will experience opportunities we can’t yet imagine.”
Will our kids want to be fire fighters, doctors and teachers? Sure, but they may also train to be a smart home architect, commercial space pilot or an alternative energy engineer.
“Today’s students are in a unique position. They are the first generation to face a world where exam results alone no longer dictate success,” says Peter.
To teach job skills of the future, CIS focuses on four areas that students will need, no matter the occupation they choose.
#1 Making connections
Whether it’s connecting theory and practice, people and places, collaboration and innovation, or intention and action – the future is about interconnectivity. CIS brings lessons to life and allows students to connect their learning in many ways. One example is moving students out of the classroom and into the real world. Outdoor learning is a fundamental part of the school’s approach to a balanced education.
“The Outdoor Learning programme is designed to foster independence, collaboration and responsibility,” says Peter.
The length and focus of outdoor learning varies by the students’ ages. It involves amongst other activities, field trips, excursion week and the Open Minds programme – a unique hands-on learning experience in places such as Fort Canning Park and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.
#2 Asking questions to find solutions
The job skills of the future will require minds that ask, connect, analyse and surmise. To encourage students to ask questions, CIS uses an inquiry-based teaching style. This develops the students’ abilities to problem solve, think critically and find creative solutions.
CIS’s teaching is also transdisciplinary. Lessons span across subject areas, and local and global issues are incorporated into the curriculum. This mimics many real-life situations and professions, which deal with issues and people in many countries and world regions.
#3 Creating and implementing ideas
Future occupations will reward fresh and original ideas and those who can turn those ideas into action (after all, this is something robots can not do). CIS is encouraging students to think outside the box, nowhere more than in its STEAM programme (science, technology, entrepreneurship, arts and mathematics). The programme is integrated across the entire school from kindergarten to grade 12. Students have access to stimulating maker spaces, which are special areas where they can build and work together on projects, using equipment that is both traditional and cutting edge.
#4 Communicating effectively across job skills
Learning to write and communicate well (including public speaking) are skills that cut across industries. In today’s global world and in the job market of the future, speaking another language (or two) is no different.
“Students are required to study an additional language, starting from junior kindergarten,” says Peter. Students take daily classes in either Chinese, French or Spanish. Some opt to enrol in CIS’s two bilingual programmes – Chinese-English (Junior Kindergarten to Grade 6) or French-English (Grade 1 to Grade 3). “Being fluent in a second, and some cases third language, is simply going to be a requirement in the world our students are going to help shape and lead.”
This brings us back to the original question. Here’s a suggestion. Perhaps instead of asking children what they want to be when they grow up, we should ask them who they want to be when they grow up.
We should ask them about their interests, their passions, what they’re reading and what they love to learn about. Encourage their curiosity, foster their creativity and support them as they experiment with learning experiences and be truly amazed at where their imagination will take them.
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