It goes without saying that our world is undergoing constant and never-ending transformations. In such a fast-paced, changing environment – how can we make sure that our children are prepared for a better life in the future? How can we make sure that they are able to work with cutting-edge technology which is likely to be commonplace in the future? How can we make sure that the skills that we are teaching our children at school today are still relevant and useful for them in 10 years’ time? Indeed, it is very likely that the jobs that you know exist today will be very different or non-existent at all in the future.
What skills will be still highly regarded in the future?
In fact, in 2016, the World Economic Forum published The Future of Jobs report. This report stated that “65% of children entering primary school today will end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist” and although it may seem difficult to predict what skills will be still highly regarded in the future, educators and researchers have come up with a list of skills, which they believe will still be important in 10 years’ time.
Educators and futurists are already trying to imagine what our future world will look like, trying to understand what jobs will be popular in the future and what skills will be in demand. John B. Mahaffie, Co-Founder and Principal of Leading Futurists LLC has offered his vision of the future world. According to him, regular waves of change will reshape the world.
He also argued that work will involve international connections and citizenship will gain a more global focus. New kinds of collaboration will flourish among workers and companies and a great number of jobs will involve working with digital machines and intelligent systems. Mahaffle also argues that our society will confront more issues.
Mahaffie has compiled a list of skills that he thinks will be useful for children in the future. One of the most important ones is a love for learning. Indeed, no matter whether our predictions about the future job market will be accurate or not, a desire to engage in learning will inevitably lead our children to success.
Another important skill that Mahaffie deems important is self-knowledge, which entails emotional intelligence and other concomitant skills such as self-confidence, empathy and the ability to remain emotionally stable. Self-knowledge will help people build meaningful relationships and it is an important capability that all people must acquire in order to progress and continue with their lives.
Another crucial skill that will be useful in the future for children is “cognitive flexibility”. The 2016 report from the World Economic Forum states that soon employers will place more emphasis on the cognitive abilities of their potential employees. According to the report, employers will, especially creativity and adaptability. Indeed, it seems like novel and adaptive thinking will be as important as they have ever been before.
You may wonder what “cognitive flexibility” means and in fact scientists and researchers still haven’t come to a definitive conclusion on how to define it. However, there is one definition which seems to be more or less apt and it was offered by Professor Rand Spiro, who described “cognitive flexibility” thus: “the ability to spontaneously restructure one’s knowledge, in many ways, an adaptive response to radically changing situational demands”.
What is interesting is that cognitive flexibility can be useful for kids even now, in and out of school. When children think in flexible ways it is easier for them to get key academic skills such as reading and writing and learn in a more efficient way. According to Meghan Fitzgerald, an educator and curriculum developer with extensive experience in the area of education, parents can help their children get cognitive flexibility.
Developing Children’s Cognitive Flexibility
There are several simple methods that can help parents support and develop their children’s cognitive skills:
- Take your children outdoors. Nature can be very stimulating as it offers varying sounds, smells and sensations, which provide ample opportunities to shift focus and develop children’s creativity and curiosity.
- Use surprises to support. Meghan Fitzgerald recommends doing the following: “When you have extra time one day, pull the car over and enjoy a little picnic snack in the park. Take the trail you have never taken before, just to see where it goes. Bring a favourite toy on a hike, but unveil it when you are already out there”. All these little tricks will help a child shift their attention and adjust their attention to these new twists.
- Play games with shifting rules. When you play games with children or schoolchildren opt for games that include rule switching or look for ways to take favourite games and switch up the rules.
Adaptability and Open-Mindedness
Another important skill that we need to teach our children is adaptability and open-mindedness. The future looks very uncertain, challenging and ever-changing so our children will have to be strong and prepared if unexpected change comes their way.
Fortunately, scholars and educators have done ample research in this area and come up with a few strategies aimed at helping children to become more adaptable.
- When your child faces a new and unfamiliar situation discuss their feelings with them. It is certainly not as easy as it sounds and it is very possible that depending on the child’s age and temperament he or she will not be willing to discuss anything with you, but you can still approach them indirectly.
- Let your child over losses that change has brought into his life. Acknowledging that losses are real and allowing your child to express his sadness will help him prevent the development of anxiety, which cripples so many people these days.
- Look for catastrophic thinking and try to discourage it. Listen to your child carefully and look for the words like “never”, “always” or phrases like “I will never make any friends at school” or “Nobody will want to be friends with me”. Parents must challenge such unrealistic statements and help their children come up with a more balanced view of what the future may have in store for them. Being encouraged to challenge his own catastrophic thinking, the child will soon learn how to do it without his parents’ help.
- Teach your child to be proactive as a response to change. For instance, if nobody talks to the child in the new neighbourhood, carefully suggest that he strike up a conversation at a bus stop or knock on a neighbour’s door and introduce himself. Adjust your suggestions if your child is shy.
Finally, one more skill which is extremely important for our children’s success in the future is critical thinking. These days our children are bombarded with messages and a lot of information. But not everything they hear and see is truthful so children must be aware of that and be able to form their own opinions and beliefs. They must be able to imagine, analyse and evaluate information in order to determine if it is factual and truthful or not. This is called “thinking critically” and this skill is very important for children as far as their academic success and future careers.
Critical thinking is beneficial for children in many important ways. Critical thinking skills may help your child to solve complex problems at school and deal with peer pressure. They also prepare your children for future life challenges and obstacles. According to Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and the author of best-selling books on mental health, “critical thinking skills can help someone better understand themselves, other people, and the world around them.
They can assist in everyday problem-solving, creativity, and productivity”.If our children lack the ability to think critically, then they can misunderstand and misconstrue important information, which in turn will lead to problems at school and in future relationships. In fact, there is research which has revealed that children who do not have critical thinking skills are at higher risk of developing behavioural problems.
Developing Critical Thinking
When parents and educators teach their children to be critical thinkers they teach them to be independent. Sherri Gordon, a published author and researcher of health and social issues, has also come up with several strategies aimed at helping your children acquire critical thinking skills:
- Encourage your children to ask questions. Asking questions is an important component of critical thinking and taking time to answer your children’s questions will certainly help your children develop their critical things faster and more effectively;
- Play with your children. You can play board games with them, for example, or just talk to them about things that are of interest to them. The most crucial thing here is to spend quality time together with your kids and discuss things on a deeper level.
- Encourage them to be open-minded. Indeed, this piece of advice is probably the most challenging one, but still, it is very important, as being a critical thinker means being able to objectively evaluate things around us without bias. Encourage your children to leave their judgements and assumptions aside, and talk to them about diversity, inclusiveness and fairness.
All the skills discussed in this article are useful not only for our children’s future endeavours but in their present lives as well. They will help them make better decisions on a daily basis, establish healthy relationships and better understand themselves.
Dr Russ Gadzhiev is a facilitator at Shiminly. He obtained his PhD in history and politics from the University of Melbourne. He also holds a master’s degree in International Relations from Moscow State University of International Relations, a top-ranking diplomatic school. Dr Russ is a strong education professional with a history of working in the higher education sector of Australia and a proven ability to effectively communicate with learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. He is passionate about teaching and mentoring, writing, curriculum development, research, information management and public speaking. He is fluent in Russian, English, Spanish and Portuguese.
 The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. URL: https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs.pdf
 John B. Mahaffie. Nine Skills That Will Help Make our Children Future Ready. URL: https://www.wise-qatar.org/learning-future-job-skills-john-mahaffie/
 Meghan Fitzgerald. Helping kids develop cognitive flexibility. URL: https://tinkergarten.com/blog/6-ways-to-help-your-kids-develop-cognitive-flexibility
 Teaching Children How to Adapt. URL: https://psychcentral.com/lib/teaching-children-how-to-adapt#1
 Quote taken from: Sherri Gordon, How to Tech your Child to be a Critical Thinker. URL: https://www.verywellfamily.com/how-to-teach-your-child-to-be-a-critical-thinker-5190765
 Sun RC, Hui EK. Cognitive competence as a positive youth development construct: a conceptual review. ScientificWorldJournal. 2012;2012:210953. doi:10.1100/2012/210953