ZX Spectrum

Is our Education system ready for a New World of Work?

Technology is evolving fast.  It is changing everything – from home to the workplace. Although many businesses are wrestling with these changes, others are already seeing the benefits of collaborative working, knowledge sharing and real-time communication that technology advancements can bring. From my perspective, barely a month goes by without another game-changing possibility being introduced e.g. a new productivity, marketing, communication or some other channel or tool.

We are entering a New World of Work.

It is crazy to think that when I was at Uni (‘only in’ 1993-1996), we had to

  • queue to use the telephone kiosk to phone home (mobile phones were not readily available),
  • hand-write all course-work, assignments etc (some students typed them on ‘wordprocessors’ but they were the ‘v early adopters’) and
  • email was at its v beginnings of becoming mainstream (“what? you can send a message for……FREE???!!!”).

When I started my professional training-contract at KPMG in 1997 I recall firing up my laptop with trepidation…. Microsoft Office was a new world that was set to become a staple part of my working day.

At home today, I am continually amazed by how naturally my 6 year old interacts with technology. It is an everyday norm for him. He is a Digital Kid. He can log into Club Penguin and other (protected) online gaming platforms without assistance. He uses the mouse tracker pad with ease and can find his way around the keyboard to interact with the gaming experience without fuss. He loves it and, here’s the interesting bit, it has without doubt accelerated his reading, questioning and strategic thinking abilities.

Although we keep tabs on the time he spends on the Mac Book playing online children’s games, Nintendo DS and Wii, I am relaxed about him getting to grips with technology at this early age as – let’s face it – an advanced competence in technology is going to be a key life skill for his generation (hey, this requirement is already pretty much here).  Plus he enjoys it and learns in the process. A win-win. (the fact that it gives me a chance to indulge my old ZX Spectrum gaming skills has nothing to do with it!).

But what happens in our schools today to reflect these changes? Not enough from my perspective so far. Although the blackboard has now become a whiteboard with overhead projector and there’s access to a computer room, the rest seems pretty archaic. Lining up to go in, sat on a mat being read to, practising joined up writing for hours on end etc. Meanwhile, there’s a national curriculum that appears to have been designed in the dark ages.

If our UK children are to excel in the 21st century New World of Work we need to seem some changes – and fast.

We need children who are encouraged to:

  • think differently
  • question (everything)
  • find their passions and follow them
  • be au fait with latest technology and use it to interact and collaborate
  • be creative and inquisitive
  • pull together in different teams to work together and share their experiences
  • think and do – not sit and listen
  • be individuals who understand their talents and innate gifts.

The future of UK (/global) enterprise and the world of work needs Innovators. Leaders. Entrepreneurs.

Our education system needs to reflect this. It is impossible to know what job(s) my 6 year old son will carry out over his lifetime (most roles probably do not as yet exist), however, it is important that we equip our kids with an inquisitive, curious and questioning mind; confidence in utilising latest technology and an overriding focus on thinking skills and developing new, creative ideas and work (rather than an education system based on regurgitating known facts as has been the norm over the 20th Century- all pretty useless in a Google and Wikipedia New World of Work).

And then there’s my 3 year old…

Postscript: I was at VentureFest 2010 in Yorkshire today and was pleased to see what appeared to be a great deal of involvement of local high schools in tech projects, exhibitions and competitions which is promising…

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