Futurists tell us that this present generation of children is “entering a world of unprecedented complexity”. Our world will experience more ‘change’ over the next 15 years*, in comparison to what collectively has happened over the entire course of human history. Therefore, what this world might look like in ten or twenty years’ time is very much anyone’s guess.

What do children and young people need to be equipped for workplace readiness and success in their learning and for life in general? There has been much discussion on this matter, but I would like to summarise some of the key thoughts that presently challenge me as an educator and school leader. My direct experience working alongside children at two extremes of the spectrum, from kids in poverty, living in slums in India and kids living in the affluence and wealth of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, has shown me that 21st Century learners, despite their context, have much in common.

Let’s consider the following skills, dispositions and qualities that we need to grow and nurture in our students, in order for them to be ‘future ready’. Our students need to be given opportunities/supported/enabled to:

  • Innovate, invent, design and create.
  • Have competency to communicate well with others.
  • Collaborate, coordinate and cooperate with people.
  • Be critical and creative thinkers who think outside the box.
  • Display cognitive flexibility.
  • Explore their curiosity and imagination.
  • Explore personal talents, strengths and interests.
  • Solve complex ‘real world’ problems, explore possibilities and see that a solution is in reach, and that they are personally a part of the answer.
  • Be compassionate and highly empathetic, responding to the needs and circumstances of others.
  • Be entrepreneurial and enjoy the benefits of their efforts. This involves social and business entrepreneurialism.
  • Like to ‘play’ with passion and purpose, regardless of their age.
  • Value the dispositions of grit, determination and persistence and develop personal resilience.
  • Understand that making mistakes and failure are opportunities for growth and learning.
  • Grow in emotional intelligence (EQ).
  • Know how to make friends, build relationships, solve conflict and negotiate with others.
  • Display humility, service and leadership which are seen as keys for developing personal integrity.
  • Display confidence and self-assuredness, and they think beyond themselves (servant leadership).

Educators must understand that innovation in education is found at the heart of all we do. We must innovate if our learners are given opportunities to flourish in each of the above areas.

As we design opportunities for quality learning, develop curriculum, write policies, design classrooms, campuses and schools of the future, and as connect globally with other educators, we must keep our perspective firmly fixed on children and their learning. It takes courage and conviction for us to challenge old paradigms and assumptions, especially when we have stakeholders who essentially do not have ‘children and their learning’ as their first and foremost priority.

If you work directly or indirectly with children, is their future one of your priorities?


* Gus Schmedlen, Vice President, Worldwide Education Industry Organisation Solutions.