G. Balasubramanian is a doyen of school education in India. He has held several positions of leadership at CBSE, including Director Academics. He was the brain behind the introduction of several innovations at CBSE which included frontline curriculum, Communicative Approach to Language Teaching, Information Technology, Alternatives to Homework, etc. He is also an author, poet and a sought-after speaker at education conferences world over.
There are no few arguments to prove that technology has impacted our lives, thoughts and processes so much that there is no going back. The challenge is not simply living with technology but being a part of the newer technologies that pave way for the exit of the older ones. Whether we like it or not, the speed of such changes is mindboggling that one is left with stress – intellectual, emotional and kinaesthetic – giving hardly any time to cope with such changes. But certainly, there are no options. Those who want to take a break, possibly would find an entirely new universe for them to start with.
Given this scenario, the learners of today would certainly need new skills so that they can participate in life with purpose, direction, focus and productively. The entire architecture of learning would possibly need to refocus itself to impart these desirable skills, whatever be the discipline of learning the learner pursues. The new NPE focusing on skill development provides an effective base for re-engineering this dynamic. I personally believe that the following ten skills will surface as crucial for the growth profile of the learners with courage and conviction. As such these skills do not carry any relationship with the content of any discipline, and hence will easily get integrated with them as nerve canters for their pedagogical framework.
1. Immersive Learning
Though our curricular exercises presently tend to focus on providing skills based on experiential learning, the future holds promise for immersive learning enabled by the gifts of technology – Artificial Intelligence (AI), augmented reality, mixed reality and 360-degree learning experiences. Immersive learning facilitates focus, eliminating all kinds of distractions, providing a direct engagement with concepts in their virtual eco-systems. This would provide not only an awesome and holistic learning experience but, provide an emotional connect with the learning content and environment which will be highly personalized. This is likely to enhance authentic learning and experiences which are driven by their own hormonal impacts and hence become stable. Their impact on memory and enhanced self-esteem would help to knock at the doors of creativity and innovation.
2. Digital Supremacy
The world has moved far from the needs of digital literacy. Generations of newer technologies and their holistic impact on thoughts, actions and lifestyles is abundantly visible across the lifestyles, professions and management systems all over the world. The speed of irrelevance of knowledge and skills consequent to the way they are digitized and delivered, makes new meanings about their content, utility, applicability and inter-operability. Hence, learners of today need to be current with this changing dynamic, rather have a digital supremacy over their counterparts so that they do not struggle for their professional existence or excellence. Well, the real challenge is breaking the barricades created by the teachers and parents, who have legitimate fears to travel to unknown shores of knowledge. It is time that everyone understands that it is “Learners day out.”
3. Design Thinking
There have been extensive discussions in several platforms about the need for thinking skills among the learners. Many Boards of education have taken bold and positive steps to integrate these skills in their pedagogical processes, though the inadequate training and the linear thinking skills of the teachers and the community have not effectively subscribed to this change. But, with inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary approaches to learning, any exercise in thinking has to be well articulated, purposeful, goal oriented, create opportunities for performances, enhance the quantity and quality of the deliverables, whatever they are. This could be achieved through design thinking exercises right from the formative stages. These exercises would offer better clarity of conceptual mobility, opportunities for review and re-engineering, seek collaborative models accommodating the intelligence of the peers and thus will create a better ownership value for the entire team and the system. In an increasingly globalized world, design thinking may be an answer to solve problems at a lower cost of resources, time and space.
The skills of entrepreneurship are essential future requirements. Whatever field of knowledge, skills or profession a learner pursues, absence of entrepreneurial qualities would keep the individual below the normal. Ability to see opportunities, identifying newer pathways for application of integrated knowledge, demonstrating and parading leadership perspectives, ability to take calculated risks, explore markets, resource and productivity management are some of the key elements basic to any profession. Learners would do well to go beyond their textual content to understand, appreciate and evaluate the above skills in their operating environment. Lessons through observation, research and analysis would be basic growth skills.
5. Advocacy and Marketing Skills
The current dynamics of growth and performance is characterized by ‘presence’ or ‘being there’ whether it is an individual space or a social space. Getting to such positions of visibility, recognition, gravitation and acknowledgement calls for effective advocacy and marketing skills. While the proverbial statement ‘your work speaks for yourself’ is not becoming redundant, in a competitive global environment where there is a cutting-edge competition for ‘being there’, advocacy and marketing skills have become critical not only for processes and products, but for people too. These skills go beyond any textual prescription and are born out of critical review of the environment in which one wants to be positioned. A lot of common sense, communication skills and contemporary social psychology are required to be relevant and successful.
6. Financial Literacy and Wealth Management
Wealth management is becoming an important consideration for safe and successful endeavours both for sustenance and growth. Wealth has to be understood in a broader sense encompassing a wide variety of resources that go to build, operate, and grow in a world haunted by resource viability, investment and becoming a part of a personal and national growth dynamics. Unfortunately, these are presently considered post-employment skills and hence many young people get into situations where everything appears mythical to them or a blessing. Pragmatic considerations of money, estate, investments and wealth as instruments of wise growth patterns is not yet articulated in the contemporary learning systems. In many a system, these are considered alien to value-based learning in a learning system and sadly so. It is time to change and enable learners to become actively engaged in financial literacy and wealth management processes.
7. Self-Management Skills
Self-management is becoming key to the personal success of an individual. With increasing globalization, the ability of people to reach out to a long-awaiting world for their role is quite visible. Highly protected family environments with a wishful thinking of working in the closest possible environment is giving place to ‘fly off’ anywhere to make the self-more celebrated. The process of schooling, should therefore, address to enabling, empowering and facilitating the self-esteem, self-organization, self-analysis, self-regulation and self-actualization. To position the self in the most appropriate way in harmony with skills, understanding the strengths and limitations, would be an essential life skill. Learning systems need to expand their vision of ‘learning’ by stepping down from their ivory towers to be more contemporary as well as futuristic.
8. Change Management Skills
Several people with worthy intellectual skills fail when it comes to their emotional domain. Coping with people and sailing through challenges, anchoring at safe harbours of activity call for change management skills. Winds of change are subject to periodic weather impacts influenced by socio- political environments aggravated by sweeping technological impacts on thought patterns. Adoptability, adaptability and availability to situations is an emerging need wherever we are – at personal, social, professional, environments. Material changes appear to be impacting the emotional connect among people and hence emotional intelligence as a part of change management skills is also a desirable need.
9. Spirit of Creativity & Innovation
While the definitions of leadership have been undergoing change contextually depending on the business, social and political ecosystems, the future of leadership will largely depend upon the creative competencies of an individual. Creativity and innovation in whatever are done will be the bedrock of future leadership requirements. It is therefore important to move away from routine and linear thinking strategies replacing them with creative faculties blending knowledge, skills with needs, fashion and fun. The spirit of novelty is becoming a basic emotional nutrient for emerging markets. Divergence and convergence, both impacting process and product definitions, expansionism and minimalism are conflicting with each other to find their relevance. Hence opportunities do exist for learners in either way, if and when they want to be a part of the on-going consumerist dynamics.
10. Tribal Leadership Skills
While several formats of leadership have emerged over the last few centuries, the concept of ‘tribal leadership’ appears to have a contextual value. Developing a community of people to a specified ‘genetic thinking’ and creating ‘loyalty structures’ to keep them wedded to some concepts, patterns and tribes of behaviours, is a market pattern that seems to haunt other areas of our lifestyles. In such a process, the acquisition of tribal leadership positions makes the individual a person of value and a person worthy of emulating. While ‘small is beautiful’ is a wonderful concept, tribal leaders expand their domain operation more by gravitational exercises than by aggression or other stressful exercises. Tribal leadership facilitates focused growth in a manageable, sustainable and healthy environment where one does have to search for multiple control devices.
It is time that our institutional leaders start thinking differently about their curricula and pedagogy, letting the disciplines becoming the soil on which healthy growth of such faculties happen.
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