Top Strategies for Empowering Young Minds to Realize Their Potentials

Dec 15, 2020

Children need to be prepared to work in jobs and use technologies that don’t yet exist. For educators, a critical question becomes, what are we doing to help them be successful in the decades to come? Join the conversation.

Young people between the age of 0-14 make up over a quarter of the world’s population, and this group is only growing. Nothing binds parents, guardians, teachers, education leaders, and children together as their shared belief in education. It is viewed as a conduit to realize one’s potential, innate self, natural fitness, and change one’s own course of life and socio-economic status – and that of family’s – for the better.

However, in a world undergoing rapid transformation and technological change, it decrees imparting timeless learning and skills to children for a fulfilling future. Education needs to change with time and stay relevant. What will such a moonshot moment of education look like? We explore some “kernel” lessons and strategies for educators for empowering young minds for the future.

The Faultlines: Where are we going wrong?

For all the faith in education, the deck of cards is stacked against these young minds. The condition of education was stark even before, and COVID-19 has further put millions out of schools. Consider a few statistics:

  • Today, about 250 million children between 5 to 12 years can’t read, write, or count.

  • The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report revealed that in the US the average reading score among grade 4 and grade 8 students was lower in 2019 compared to 2017, and it was higher back in 1992 when the assessment was first started.

  • The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018 report coordinated by the OECD showed that 8 education systems have higher reading scores, 30 with higher mathematics scores, and 11 with higher science scores for the 15-year-olds compared to the US.

  • The average mathematics score in the US is lower than the OECD average (PISA 2018).

  • The school-to-work gap is increasing. By one popular estimate, 65% of the children entering primary schools now will work in jobs that don’t even exist today (World Economic Forum).

  • Over 825 million children will not acquire secondary-level skills, which are a measure of workplace readiness (2030 Skills Scorecard).

Getting children to schools and raising enrolments is one part of the puzzle. These projections point toward the other – the learning and skilling crisis facing our young generations. It encompasses two major challenges – the quality and credibility of what they are taught. Quality covers the effectiveness of instruction and delivery, and credibility refers to the future relevance of education.

Quality and Credibility: Two Yardsticks of Education Excellence

Much of what children learn will become irrelevant by the second half of the 21st century.

How then do you determine what must teaching and learning constitute to help children get a job, understand their surroundings, and navigate the maze life that is when they grow up?

No one can say for certain what the future will look like. But, by rebooting their strategy, educators can ensure children learn to reinvent themselves and are prepared to face whatever the future holds. Here are seven factors, which can better the quality and credibility of educational institutions.

Quality focuses on the short-term immediate changes, which can improve current offerings of an institution. Credibility focuses on the long-term planning that can help institutions make their offerings relevant to the changing times.

1. Participant-Driven System

Traditional classrooms are inadequate not only in their method of instruction and delivery but also in learning outcomes. Among some dramatic consequences of this archaic system are overcrowded classrooms and lack of critical thinking among students.

Overcrowded classrooms limit teachers’ capacity to teach and give personalized attention to every student, which in turn leads to uninterested students and high dropout rates.

National Center for Education Statistics reported that about 14% of schools in the US exceed their normal capacity. For instance, approximately one in every five Chicago Public Schools begin schooling of elementary students in overcrowded classrooms.

Besides, individual expression is important for this generation – with many already running their own social media channels. As robots replace jobs, markets will also need out-of-the-box thinkers and strategists. One-size-fits-all type of education will no longer suffice. How then can you give voice to individual thinking while accounting for large number of students?

A participative courseware system is one solution for ensuring quality with quantity in education. It allows for a huge number of students to learn in their own time and at their own pace, from the best educators.

Participative learning systems are bottom-up approaches to education, which are quick to develop and are closely aligned with today’s and future marketplaces. They offer multiple pathways for learners to develop skills and learn what they need and in whatever place that best suits their circumstances. These solutions gravitate toward the use of technology and localized/personalized/community-based teaching.

2. Experiential and Blended Learning

Chalk-and-board method of teaching is not the most effective instruction modality for this tech-friendly, internet generation. It can be intimidating for many and is less engaging.

A blended pedagogy with the right mix of online, offline, and immersive mediums can dramatically improve retention and learning outcomes.

Information can be imparted in many forms today – text, graphics, music, audio, visual, games, learning camps, and even immersive (through AR and VR). For example, learning about marine biology by seeing marine life in reality; teaching history by offline/online visit to real battlefields, and taking tours of castles; developing socio-political competence by doing classroom projects, undertaking hands-on campaign works, and conducting group exercises in schools and at home.

3. Parent Participation

A highly overlooked, but very important factor in shaping up students’ future is their parents’ engagement in their learning. From setting expectations and encouraging them to study to providing the right peer group within and outside the school, parents remain critical to a child’s development.

American Academy of Pediatrics reports that parents’ long-term goals for their kids directly impacted their math and reading scores.

However, given the busy schedules of parents and sometimes their inadequacy in handling new age subjects and generational gap, this aspect remains a missing piece or insufficient in children’s education.

Educators can counsel parents on this and play an active role in enlisting guardians’ support in a child’s education. They can be included in school’s activities through videoconferencing, continuous email conversations and updates, arranging downtime, and more.

4. Rewarding System

Education and rewarding system have a long-standing history. It is used for behavior modification in teachers as well as students, promotes better performance and is associated with positive reinforcement.

Educational leaders must ensure that rewards are not only used for stimulating desirable behavior but are also conveyed in the right manner to students. For instance, labeling a good performer as gifted may exclude other students and lead them into believing that this level cannot be achieved by them as they are not as gifted naturally. Recognizing high performance requires better tags and inclusive ways of appreciation. Sourcing feedback from young people can help teachers and leaders understand the efficacy of their rewarding systems.

For teachers, pay-for-performance strategies can make traditional salary models more dynamic and enthuse healthier engagement from them. This also includes sensitivity training for efficient handling of student rewards such that it not only keeps the high performers going but also motivate the other lot.

5. Soft Skills or The Four Cs

It’s not hard to imagine schools teaching English Grammar, Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, History, and several such courses. With some variation, institutions across the globe have a similar list of subjects. However, what’s really missing is the due importance to social, emotional, and life skills. Many reports confirm the rising importance of soft skills for the future.

Four Cs – Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity – will be central to students’ growth.

Schools need to focus on imparting the ability to make an informed decision amid contrasting viewpoints, developing the knack to navigate through many roles played by a human – personal, professional, societal, and duty toward the nation, fostering the capacity to manage emotions, and improving human-human understanding.

Low-pressure games, sensitivity exercises, monthly budget management, retirement planning, and other such activities must form a part of the school curriculum to teach our young minds the implications of their life-choices and reactions.

6. Business-Education Collaboration

It’s time that schools, governments, and businesses take the driving seat in ensuring the quality and credibility of education. Multi-stakeholder partnerships are pertinent to better align labor market demands with education and training.

Collaboration will reduce the protracted gap between school and work and improve accountability of educational institutions.

  • Governments can work with schools and businesses to protect students’ rights.

  • Corporate leaders can help educators identify the gaps in teaching and help in designing and developing the right curriculum and pedagogy.

  • Educators can get a better understanding of the future by asking the right questions and regularly interacting with corporates.

7. New Disciplines

In a not too distant future, new technologies will take over our work in several ways. From AI watching our every move to data science evaluating every data point. According to the WEF,

The relationship between new technologies and young people will be crucial to negotiating the well-being of larger populace.

Introducing new staples such as data science and AI in schools will provide students an initial toolbox, they need to build additional skills. Carefully curating it into the curriculum is tricky as technologies keep changing. Achieving the balance between technology and human skills will be paramount.

Giving young minds the ability to influence their own fates is the best indicator of a healthy education system; And perhaps, our best bet to hedge the uncertain future in children’s favor. Education system must take actionable steps to create scopes for their personal growth and prosperity. It’s what our young demand.

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