Education system should be skills oriented

We witness the fanfare every year. After the examination results are announced, there is jubilation.

Parents break into song and dance as they celebrate their children who score A-grades in the transition examinations.

Thankfully, all this is about to change. Hopeful reforms are expected in our education system. The stakeholders, led by Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, have been getting together to outline a blueprint of the future of learning for our children. Following the ongoing debates, the stakeholders have the best intentions.

They are determined to map out what is to be learnt, and how it will be learnt. Every Kenyan is hopeful that in the envisaged education system, our children will be helped to become successful students, workers, and citizens of the 21st Century.

There is one thing that is very clear. Educationists concur that the world has changed fundamentally.

Consequently, they are in agreement that the approach to learning and education must also change. We must develop the skills pupils will require to survive in the workplace and beyond.

As we embark on this process, a good place to start is to ask ourselves some knotty questions.

Our Vision 2030 is to be realised in about 14 years. A crucial question is: What will the world be like in the next 14 years? What skills will our children require in order to sustain or even exceed the gains that we shall have realised in this much anticipated future?

For starters, there are so many jobs today that were not in existence 14 years ago. On this account, we must not lose sight of the fact that we’re preparing our children for a work environment that does not exist.

Richard Riley, the Secretary of Education under Bill Clinton’s administration, is quoted to have aptly observed that we are currently preparing students for jobs that do not yet exist ... using technologies that have not yet been invented ... in order to solve problems that are yet to be experienced.

When world experts in education reforms project current events into the future, they foresee a very small world in which we will be more connected than we are today. They also see a society that will be overloaded with information.

Accordingly, the citizens of this future will be expected to sieve through this information, manage it, and subsequently use it for decision making. Other major concerns in this future will be about tackling global security threats posed by terrorism. These are just but a few of the concerns.

Against this background, the obvious thing to do is to model our education system in line with the expectations of the 21st Century skillset.

There are skills that experts of education reforms have identified as a must-have for the future. They categorise them into broad groups.

Those that fall under learning and innovation skills include critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, creativity, and innovation.

The experts also identify digital literacy skills as another important category. The skills under this group include information literacy, media literacy, and information and communication technologies (ICT) literacy.

Another category falls under career and life skills. The competencies under this category include flexibility, adaptability, initiative, self-responsibility, social and cultural interaction, leadership, and responsibility.

Having identified these skills, it is hoped that as we explore the new road map to a promising education system, our students will eventually be helped to develop these skills.

We must remember that employee appraisal is always based on performance. There is no magic wand to wave and instantly realise the desired result we hope for. This will be a journey.