Every nation has its own culture. It is what defines its character. The expatriate culture in the Middle East has its own flavour. The parent community that I served in Saudi Arabia interestingly was more concerned about their children qualifying for their A levels by a certain age, rather than focusing on the acquisition of skills associated with learning.
To some extent that is the case everywhere in the world. We seem to be so tied to a timeline. There are formal milestones in growth that are scientifically proven and we do not argue with them. Then there are those that we create for our children that vary slightly from community to community but ultimately aim for the same. Parents want their children to be done with high school by a certain age, finish their undergrad by a certain age, professionally qualify to seek a job by a certain age.......
We are now two decades into the 21st century. The little kids of today are going to be responsible adults of tomorrow. Studies suggest that 2/3s of the children of today will be in jobs tomorrow, that do not currently exist. Excelling in their hard skills alone is not going to suffice. In 2016 the World Economic Forum released a report about the challenges of the 21st century and the skills that would be required to succeed in the future. Only a third of these skills were hard skills, viz. Reading, Writing, Arithmetic (the three R’s). The rest were nothing but soft skills.
Dr. Laura Jana (Pediatrician, educator, author) calls these soft skills, "QI skills", pronounced ‘Key’ skills. These are broadly what are referred to as IQ skills.
These 7 Key/QI skills are:
ME skills: Impulse control, Self-awareness, compassion ( basic executive functions)
WE skills: Communication, Collaboration, Team-work
WHY skills: Curiosity, exploration, asking ‘why’
WILL skills: Grit, determination, intrinsic motivation (not working for external rewards)
WIGGLE skills: Action, Movement- children need to move to create. Remaining sedentary kills creativity
WOBBLE skills: Adaptability. Accept failure goes hand in hand with success. Learn to rise and fall.
WHAT-IF skills: Creativity, out-of-the-box thinking.
It shouldn't be too difficult to observe our children and chart their growth against the above. Based on childhood studies, these critical skills can be developed very early in life. The first 5-6 years of a child’s life is when the brain goes through intense activity; making powerful neural connections. This then, is the perfect time to invite children to explore, to engage with the outside world, to connect with other human beings, to investigate, to exercise their decision making abilities etc.
Real learning is enjoyable. It is creative in its content. It invites participation. It uses reasoning. It brings vitality to existence.
The education sector too recognizes this. No more are schools fixated on pure content. Teaching practices now incorporate what are called the 4 C’s - Collaboration, Communication, Critical thinking, and Creativity into their core learning.
Pandemic- a perfect case study
With the pandemic, human beings have learned to expect the unexpected. It has forced the world to recalibrate itself. Communication has increasingly become technology driven. People have had to learn to find newer means of existence, asking for greater creativity. They have had to learn to endure despite failures and losses. Ingenuity and resourcefulness had to be learned. All of this calls for a degree of dynamism, a robust shot of life skills.
Nobody can guarantee what the future will look like, but we can equip children with a personal toolkit of competencies to navigate tomorrow skillfully. Can we not?