Robin Booth
Robin Booth

Personality development: The schooling of our future?

This comment was shared with me last night: “With the ever-increasing amount of graduates coming out of university and the shortage of jobs to be filled, we are faced with many people with the same qualifications competing for very few positions.”

So what will differentiate the candidates from each other in such a way that will give them the edge or make them more “valuable” to the employer?

And although there is much comment and debate on this topic, there is still consensus that although the core academic skills are essential, the “other” emotional, personal and interpersonal skills are becoming increasingly valued as integral to the success of any business or career.

“Content” skills and knowledge are being replaced by “conceptual” skills in reasoning, logic and application. The “purpose” of mathematics is not only about trigonometry but about skills in logic, reasoning, problem-solving and sequencing. These “conceptual” skills learnt in this area can now be applied to any other area.

And the core skills in interpersonal relationships, team work and co-operation, are increasingly being valued as not only the cutting edge from one company to another, but as absolutely necessary for staying in the game of future competition.

In the foundation phase (from grade 1 to 3) of current traditional schooling, teachers spend about 75% of the child’s school day teaching them the content of how to read and write. As the children get older the focus shifts to more specific content.

And although there is a slow shift in changing this paradigm of schooling, the shift reflects only that of moving away from “academic content” to that of “academic concepts”. The core elements of personality development and social and emotional skills are sidelined for the perceived belief that mainly academics will lead you to a successful life.

My personal belief is that the schooling of the future will include “subjects” that emphasise communication, relationship learning, conflict resolution and personal mastery. Core academic skills will not be sidelined for these other skills, but will not dominate the school curriculum (for example, a teacher who says, “stop crying John, we have to finish reading the book by the end of the period or else its homework, or teachers who teach to a test/exam because that is how “learning” is measured — the emphasis being the test and not what the children are actually learning and integrating as a process).

Schooling will be a place to experience, grapple with and integrate our ability to work with others, leverage off each other’s strength, work with (and not be threatened by) each other’s differences, manage our own social and emotional well-being and know who we are as individuals and who we are in relation to each other. On top of this is the scaffold of the academic content and conceptual skills that support children to create empowered lives and contribute to society in extremely useful ways.

And then, perhaps, we may have a situation where many children and graduates have the same dynamic knowledge, skills and competencies competing for a limited number of jobs. But the difference this time is that they will have the confidence and skills of entrepreneurs who will not be limited to what the world gives them but have the courage and skills to go out and mould their lives the way they want to.