Holistic education needs more than excelling in exams

It is imperative that schools focus not only on academic development, but also on global competencies. [iStockphoto]

When considering the quality of a child’s education, one of the chief motivating factors when choosing schools remains the likelihood that a specific school will allow a child to perform at the highest possible level. However, parents should not only evaluate the school’s academic track record, but also its commitment to instilling and developing crucial transferrable skills which will help students to become empowered and self-actualised in future, education experts say.

In the knowledge economy, success in education and life requires substantially more than just academic performance. Schools must also strategically be focused on students’ holistic development, their personal growth, and the degree to which they are able to harness their personal strengths and unique talents – on top of ensuring they perform optimally in their exams.

It is imperative that schools focus not only on academic development, but also on global competencies, mastery of which is non-negotiable for future success. Global competencies required on top of academic achievement include Thinking Skills, Research Skills, Communication Skills, Social Skills, and Self-Management Skills. 

Each of these key areas should be developed throughout a child’s educational journey, to progressively develop students’ abilities, enabling and empowering them throughout their educational journey. These skills should also not be viewed as an addition to the academic curriculum, but instead be included holistically in all aspects on a child’s educational path.

The already hugely competitive jobs marketplace is set to become even more so in future. Developing global competencies of students positions them more strongly in the jobs marketplace, as employers seek out can-do problem solvers.

By also focusing on core global competencies and the development of transferrable skills, young people are being empowered to live up to their unique potential and enter adult life armed with the abilities they will need to conquer life’s challenges.

We cannot know what the world will look like in five, seven, or 12 years’ time when today’s students finish school. However, what we can do is to equip them to the greatest degree possible with those skills that they will undoubtedly need to efficiently navigate any environment and challenges that will come their way.

Considering an uncertain future, skills like resilience, empathy, critical thinking, and problem solving are crucial components of a holistic education.

It is, therefore, imperative for all role players in a child’s education – schools, teachers, parents, and communities – to embrace the need to move forward in the way education is viewed, rather than remain fixed in the old-fashioned paradigm of assessment and reporting as the only measure of a student’s success. Performing well academically remains essential, in terms of accessing scarce study and employment opportunities locally and globally.

Academic success on its own is however no longer sufficient to position one successfully for an uncertain future. A holistic education today requires much more than excellent test and exam performances, it also requires preparing children for the future demands that are not yet understood today.

Jenny Coetzee is the Managing Director at Crawford International School Kenya while Angelica Ouya is the Education Director at the Makini Group of Schools. Both are brands of Africa’s leading private education provider ADvTECH.