Last week a trusted colleague asked me to have a quick chat with her son who is currently thinking about university and career options. This, and NESTA’s excellent Preparing for the Future event this evening got me thinking, both about what could be improved in UK schools, and about the sort of advice we give to the people leaving them…
Schools today have to do several things, don’t they? In no particular order;
1) They provide somewhere for young people to go during the day. That’s a practical one.
2) Whilst there, we need to pass on whatever knowledge one generation thinks the next should have.
3) Thirdly, we need to expose them to as many experiences and feelings as possible to help them decide what they would like do with their life and what they might be good at.
4) Finally, we have to equip them with the skills we reckon they’ll need in order to get by in the world outside the school gates, and to be good citizens.
It seems to me that we’re not imaginative enough about (1) and (3), we spend an awful lot of time testing (2) and end poorly on (4). Which, in my book leaves us with a row of crosses, or kisses if you’d prefer.
So what can be done? Have a look at joinedupdesignforschools to see how matching pupils with designers can change the way schools are built.
How about a big chat about what pupils SHOULD be taught. The allure of Google and Wikipedia shouldn’t mean that the knowledge baby goes out with the bathwater. Too many pupils I meet are, I’m sorry to say, just too ignorant about things they will let themselves down on if they haven’t learnt. Yes, you need to know how much ten percent of two thousand is. Yes, Paris is the capital of France, so learn that or you will look like an idiot. I might not think that you’re an idiot, however thousands will do.
Too much in school is ‘every child for themself’. That’s lonely, boring and nothing like the world outside, where success comes through working together. We should reward pupils who teach and mentor each other. Governments should listen to the advice of report after report and start measuring things which are important; problem solving, creativity, leadership. Teamwork, project management, persistence. Then start rewarding it and if the companies don’t start demanding a change at a deafening volume, then they only have themselves to blame when they don’t get the recruits they’re looking for.
The careers service needs a bit of rethink, doesn’t it? The workforce now have the tools to share what their jobs are like, so it’s a disgrace to rely on one person in each college to represent the world of work. Forget how well qualified they are. Why should they carry the burden for this? Why should the teachers, come to that, carry the burden for the education of the country? This point was touched on by the fantastic Julia Cleverdon at NESTA’s event. If we ALL help pupils understand the context of school, they will be less stressed and, hopefully, happier in the knowledge of what’s actually going on.
Government can only do so much. Entrepreneurs and business need to lead the change. Action is risky, and so we should look to people who make things happen for a living. We need more experiments, less ‘grand, national’ thinking, more ‘Grand National’ activity. Start small, see what works, then do and fund more of what works rather then what ’sounds good’.
We need to let school pupils in on the secrets of life beyond ‘exams’. There’s some stuff they need to know. So here’s what else I said to my colleague’s son and I’d love to chat with you about your views on this;
1) If you cannot create a good impression on the phone (he did!) or face to face you are going to struggle, and these things can be learned, so focus on them.
2) Success is about being a team player, so forget the big ‘business leader who can do everything’ nonsense. Some of the most successful people are quiet and unassuming in business.
3) Taking an interest in other people is fundamentally important. If you can’t ask questions, think again about going into business. Your curiosity is an amazing thing so use it.
4) Finally, don’t see your career as some terrible black cloud hanging over you. Experiment with as many things as you can, seek advice from people who have been where you want to go, and don’t be afraid to change path- it’s what people do. Have an end goal in mind but preferably not a job specific one. Perhaps it involves working abroad or looking after people? Then forget the black cloud and decide; what are you doing to do FIRST?
Here’s my idea for today;
Let’s challenge members of the British workforce to create just ONE 30 minute lesson, into which they have to cram something (or everything) that they think pupils leaving schools Need To Know (there’s the title). They can either submit a written speech, a podcast or a video. School pupils can vote on the entries, with the best rising to the top. There is a prize for the most viewed and the highest rated entries. The competition is open to everyone in the UK, of any age, and people should enter their age, location and occupation when they submit their entry. They should also tick a box if they’re keen to find out about local mentoring opportunities.
One media partner. One brand sponsor. One technology partner. Matchmakers of the World unite…what are we waiting for?