The promise of education

A few years ago the promise of getting a post-secondary education was clear; a job. Even today, in these challenging times, the stats agree: higher education graduates have three times more chances not to be unemployed during their careers compared to the non-graduates. Or at least not long-term unemployed.  In addition, education is associated and therefore promises better health, better retirement conditions and better quality of life in general. Big promises, big expectations and sometimes big disappointments.

Because, in the end of the day, that’s all it is: stats. No one can guarantee anything 100% and naturally there will be exceptions. I agree with the statement that has been said and re-stressed many times: we need to start preparing next generations for jobs that do not exist yet. I disagree with the fact that we should forecast them in precision. Nobody would think 8 years ago that we would have social media managers  and even though we did not create a special curriculum for these positions in our schools and universities, we now have some amazing people around the globe in this area.Which means that there are some skills that are transferable and can help future generations answer to challenges as they arise.

So, this is what I will try and share with you today; a few thoughts on education, employment, past-present and future based on 5 key facts:

  1. You will change many jobs. Our parents maybe changed 3 jobs in their careers. I am working for 10 years now full-time and I have changed roughly 5 full-time paid jobs. I have moved from business to finance to planning to project management, from social enterprises to banking to education to cosmetics companies. What need does that show for education? Cross discipline learning is a not an option, it is a must. Connective thinking is not a nice to have, it is a pre-requisite. How can it be achieved? Kids need to play the role of the learner, of the mentor, the teacher, the coach, the manager, the team member and the observer in their school time. We need to see school as a collective but customized learning experience that brings together all subjects and makes learning tangible. Community project management, summer jobs, internships and volunteer work are a few ways to get this diverse experience and get used to it, in some degree.
  2. You will move a lot. Along with the above variety, location will change as well, either within a country or across countries and maybe continents. A friend of mine from Australia, moved to Ireland, then to The Netherlands, then to Egypt and UAE and now across the Atlantic to the USA. He is not the exception. If you would ask me, which I think is the qualification that makes a difference in an international setting, outside of all the soft-skills also mentioned above, I would tell you this: languages. That will always give you an advantage, pre and post the interview. Now, I am not saying that leadership, communication, critical thinking etc are not important, I am saying that in case all the previous ones exist in similar levels in 2 candidates, then, in an international setting, the languages get many extra points. So, go abroad, immerse in the country, go on exchange programs, invest in learning foreign languages. 2 is the minimum. What does that mean for education? Cross-cultural understanding and cooperation, language and social skills become extremely important. Exchange semesters, innovation in language learning, discussions about different cultures, customs and social&business etiquette are a must.
  3. You will never stop learning. Most of us have split our lives in 2 phases: working and studying. Right? Wrong! If you are a professional and you do not spend at least an hour a day in reading/studying for your area, the latest trends, your peers, you will fall behind. And then, it will not be a rightsizing exercise that will take your position. It will be competition.  If you are in full time studies, get a part time job or volunteer. If you are in full-time job, study either as part of a program or  independently. Nowadays, there is no excuse not to study/follow a course with the amount of information we have available just with our laptops. What does that mean for education? Naturally,  teaching the love for learning is a big task for educators and current systems do not support that in many cases. I don’t really think that marks, scores and connecting school success with college entry and college with job finding is a very smart thing to do. Reflection during the learning process, mentoring and self-driven curricula are maybe some approaches worth a look.
  4. You will be unemployed. As we speak, there are 75 million unemployed people in the world. Most of us think that it will not happen to us. By choice or not, you will be unemployed for a period, which is NOT necessary a bad thing. It may open some new doors ahead that you did not even think they were there. The question is, how do you deal with it? How do you cope with it? What does that mean for education? Building complete characters, with self confidence and appreciation, with love of oneself and ability to persist and stay focused to the goal. If you have been unemployed or know people who are, you will agree with me that dealing with unemployment is all a matter of psychology, of personal strength and of course, very important, of the supporting environment (friends and family) that one has around him/her. So, education can play a critical role here, too: teach people how to build deep and meaningful relationships, how to choose the “right” people, how to build deep bonds and connections. How? through testing, discussing and reflecting. School is a micrography of the world, isn’t it?
  5. You will not be truly happy if you work on something that you do not love. I wholeheartedly believe that, but I maybe wrong. So, if you come across people that are authentically happy without loving what they do, please direct me to them. What does that mean for education? Career planning is not enough. Life-planning should be an integral part of our schools curricula. Professional life is an aspect. We need teens that choose their studies based on their true passions and talents and not because this is what their parents tell them, what the statistics say or what the society expects them to do. If you believe that school time is not just a preparation for work, but preparation for life, then you will agree with me on this. Again, mentoring, participation of parents and the community, exposure to real life through projects, volunteering and internships, as well as personal reflection are critical.

I guess all the above sound great, but you will ask ” How do we implement all these and therefore change the current wrong-doings in the system”? It is definitely not easy and it cannot be done in a day. But, it is possible. There are great organizations that as we speak change the system profoundly and therefore the experience and lives of thousands of pupils and students globally. Check one of these here.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

One comment

  1. This is terrific! “Life planning” – YES, that is what is needed! I think we do it one person, teacher, school at a time. As an educator, I try to have these conversations (when students are up for them…which is less often than I’d hope!). On my blog I’m working on sharing many of the thoughts you present here, in piecemeal form, for college students and recent college grads. More people like you and me getting the conversation going and change will be possible, bit by bit. Keep up the good work!

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