As we explored in my last post a quality education is about far more than preparing our kids and grandkids for a job or career. Adult life is about far more than earning a living.
In this post I want to focus on the component of a quality education that is about preparing students for a career. And make the case that preparing students to meet the immediate employment demands of Michigan employers is not good for either students or employers. What makes this discussion imperative is that it is a standard that Governor Snyder –– and many other policy makers from both parties –– are increasingly advocating for.
First as I wrote in my last post one of the pillars of quality p-20 education should be an education that prepares students to pursue their dreams anyplace on the planet, not just here in Michigan. But also p-20 education needs to be about preparing students for a career of forty years or more –– not an immediate job at graduation –– in an economy where no one knows what jobs and occupations will be in demand in the future.
Bill Wagner, Ann Arbor software entrepreneur, wrote a terrific column about this for AnnArbor.com that is highly recommended. He writes:
… In order to grow companies and our work force, our education system needs to prepare people for an ever-changing world. Preparing for today’s hot job is the road to irrelevance. Getting a broad, rich education that lays the foundation for becoming a triple threat is the path to a very successful career. We hire software developers that have deep knowledge of computer science and software engineering. But they must also have broad knowledge of other disciplines so that they can grow to accept new challenges as we continue to grow. We’re trying to hire more skilled people every day. We need Michigan’s education system to lay the ground so that we have a work force full of “triple threats.” It’s not enough to educate people for one job. We must educate them for lifelong successful careers. Careers that will demand diverse skills from every individual.
Not only do employers like Wagner understand best the need to develop skills that prepare students for long careers but they also are in the lead in delineating what the skills are. What skills they increasingly need from their employees both today and tomorrow. One of the best delineations of those skills comes from the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Highly recommended! Here is their framework for 21st Century Learning:
- Global Awareness
- Financial, Economic, Business and Entrepreneurial Literacy
- Civic Literacy
- Health Literacy
- Environmental Literacy
- Creativity and Innovation
- Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
- Communication and Collaboration
- Information Literacy
- Media Literacy
- ICT (Information, Communications and Technology) Literacy
- Flexibility and Adaptability
- Initiative and Self-Direction
- Social and Cross-Cultural Skills
- Productivity and Accountability
- Leadership and Responsibility
These are the components of a quality education. It is what we should be asking of our p-20 system and what we should be measuring when we assess and hold education institutions accountable. Its these broad –– rather than narrow vocational skills –– that will prepare or kids for the economy of the future and for a real opportunity to realize the American Dream.