Education plays a fundamental role in children’s lives – not only to prepare them for the world of work, but to develop them as a person. Like many other industries, the education sector is changing. From the integration of technology to the different learning styles, teaching techniques to the impact of COVID-19. Teachers today are also equipping new generations of students, like Generation Alpha, for an unknown future. In order for schools to provide them with a successful education, upskilling the teachers of today is essential.
Understanding the students of today
In a time of rising complexity, it is more important than ever for teachers to understand students’ educational experience and desires for the future. That is why we turned the focus of this year’s Education Future Report to the student perspective, having surveyed Australian students aged 16 to 24 to inform these insights. To lead students well, teachers first need to understand them and gain insight into education from their perspective. As we bring a holistic view to understanding today’s students and the external trends that are shaping their world, it equips leaders with greater clarity and confidence to make informed decisions for the future.
Today’s students are ambitious, and values driven. When we asked about their top hopes and their fears, we found that they want to own their own home (72%), have financial freedom and independence (67%) and excel in their career (67%), alongside living a sustainable lifestyle (51%) and working in an organisation that aligns with their values (45%). One of their greatest fears in fact, is being stuck in a job that they don’t enjoy or find fulfilment in (61%). This comes just after not having enough money to live comfortably (65%). More than half fear not reaching their full potential (54%) or not making a difference with their life (41%).
Beyond the 3 R’s
While parents are placing greater emphasis on a holistic education, according to our 2019 Future of Education report, four in five parents see a school’s greatest priority as equipping students with basic literacy and numeracy skills. Other key priorities include developing transferable skills, which students can apply to all situations, and future-proofing students by equipping them with the necessary skills to enter the workforce.
It is commendable that school curricula have broadened from the three R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic) to provide more holistic education for today’s students (‘curriculum creep’, as it has been labelled). Teaching methods have also shifted from rote learning and instructional delivery to the less efficient (but for many students more effective) collaborative approach. However, declining basic education outcomes should not be the cost of a more engaged and well-rounded school experience, so striking a balance between these methods will be important for teachers of these emerging generations.
Equipping students for an unknown future
Undoubtedly, the world around us is changing. Many jobs that exist today didn’t exist the year Generation Alpha was born (2010), like blockchain developers and certified UAV (drone) pilots. The rate and speed of change mean that it is very likely that the world of work today’s students will enter into will look vastly different than what it does today. More than three in five educators agree that many current jobs will be at high risk of digital disruption in the future and, in response, schools should embrace the use of technology to future-proof both students’ careers and their learning.
We believe that the best teachers have always been focused on students. The emphasis is not on what they’re learning but who they’re becoming. As the world of work changes, it is the qualities of adaptability, initiative and personal resolve that help to futureproof the students of today. The best way a school can support teachers of today is to continue to invest in their training and development. To ensure they feel equipped and prepared to not only educate today’s students, but guide, lead, encourage and equip them for life beyond school and the future that lies ahead of them.