Preparing students for the changing global workforce

How are international schools meeting the challenge of providing a globally-minded education? How do they teach young people need to thrive in an ever-evolving workplace?

Alice Smith School Preparing Pupils for the changing global workforce

Alice Smith School

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 With the explosion of advances in technology in the past century, the world we live and work in is changing at a rapid pace.An important part of education has always been to help children understand the world and find their place in it. But the global job market is changing at an alarming rate. As well as understanding the world around them, children need to be able to adapt to and embrace change – particularly with the fast-paced developments in technology and artificial intelligence (AI), which are changing the way we learn, live and work. In addition, teaching skills in areas such as global mindedness are more important now than ever before. So how can schools around the world prepare today's students for tomorrow's workplace?A theme at the 2019 Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) in Dubai was looking at not just what we teach children, but the way we deliver it. Hanna Dumont, senior researcher at the German Institute for International Educational Research, advocates adaptive teaching – a new approach that has shown a positive impact in the classroom during her research.Speaking at the GESF, she said, “In most education systems around the world, children are grouped by age and competency. The brighter students are placed with those with a similar ability, while the less able are grouped together.At the time public education was invented, this was a perfectly efficient way of organising schools, because what you needed at that time was routine expertise - the ability to apply knowledge quickly to routine problems, and the knowledge base that existed at the time was still manageable.“But today, the tasks we are asking people to do require them to adapt quickly to new situations and new problems. It’s not solving routine problems anymore.”School search and education advice - connect with our in-country expertsAdaptive teaching arranges environmental conditions to fit students, where teachers capitalise on student differences.
Dumont adds, “It’s a concept which I believe has the potential to rethink how schools are organised and hopefully to equip everyone with competencies to reach their full potential. We don't know what the future will look like, we can be sure it will change again and we will have to re-adapt.”

What skills do employers seek?

The 2018 WEF report, The Future of Jobs, highlighted the changing job market, stating “New categories of jobs will emerge, partly or wholly displacing others. The skill sets required in both old and new occupations will change in most industries and transform how and where people work.”The report looks at how technological progress will transform labour markets and says that the main skills that will be most in-demand by employers by 2020 include analytical thinking and innovation, creativity and emotional intelligence.
Zoe Williams, head of university and careers advice at the Tanglin Trust School in Singapore, says, “The jobs landscape is changing – diverging by industry, sector and region. Technological developments are shifting the tasks performed by humans and those performed by machines and algorithms.”The WEF says that workforces need to meet the challenges of “this new era of accelerating change and innovation” and suggests that for business growth, employers are looking for “a motivated and agile workforce” with a “mindset of lifelong learning” and “future-proof skills to take advantage of new opportunities through continuous retraining, and upskilling”.School around the world are rising to the challenge of delivery a 21st-century fit education. St Columbia's College in Dublin offers the Irish Leaving Certificate of seven subjects, which is much broader than the British system. Mark Boobbyer explains the benefits of this curriculum, “In the 4th form, before the Leaving Certificate begins, there is a Transition Year, which allows pupils to try many different subjects to do a variety of work experience placements and to involve themselves in service projects.”Melanie Warnes, who has worked in education for more than 30 years as the principal at The British School of Brussels (BSB), points out that there are a number of overall, general traits that distinguish the younger generation graduates from their predecessors. “They’re so much more aware than my generation was of ethical issues,” she says. “They will ask questions about things at a deeper level. If I was giving advice to companies, it would be around how well the companies are communicating their ethical position.”The BSB has an employer engagement strategy that is aimed at developing students’ skills for the future and to broaden their horizons in terms of opportunities. The school has also organised several expert panels on topics – such as how AI will influence the job market – that contribute to the school’s mission of developing students as a whole, personally and socially and not just academically.

Developing the "right" skills

While it has been widely publicised that employers are often finding school-leavers and graduates lacking in the right skills, the mind-set that students develop at international schools is likely to place them at a distinct advantage.
During her keynote speech on 'How employers can support schools, young people and their career ambitions', at the 2019 Festival of Global People, Angela Middleton MBE, founder of UK apprenticeship training provider MiddletonMurray, talked about the gap between leaving school and gaining a first job, and how schools and employers can make the transition into the workplace a better experience. “Young people are leaving school with a lack of vision and a lack of self-belief,” she said. “They don’t know what they are capable of.”She explained that schools and employers need to generate a partnership, so that the transition into the workplace is made easier by the career experience gained while at school through work experience. The British School in the Netherlands (BSN) runs a Model United Nations (MUN), which is one of the longest-running student-led extra-curricular activities, with students from Year 9 to Sixth Form attending. The BSNMUN has grown into an annual conference. Paul Topping, member of the executive leadership team and headteacher of senior school Voorschoten, said, “We put a lot of focus on helping our students become future leaders and inspiring individuals.”According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) framework, “Twenty-first-century students live in an interconnected, diverse and rapidly changing world. Emerging economic, digital, cultural, demographic and environmental forces are shaping young people’s lives around the planet, and increasing their intercultural encounters on a daily basis. This complex environment presents an opportunity and a challenge. Young people today must not only learn to participate in a more interconnected world, but also appreciate and benefit from cultural differences. Developing a global and intercultural outlook is a process – a lifelong process – that education can shape.”The York School in Toronto, Canada strives to create a community of engaged learners who embrace new challenges, dig deep, and emerge as confident citizens of the world. Anthony Westenberg, communications and marketing, says, “Buttressed by a long tradition of experiential learning and the IB curriculum, our teachers work together to foster learning experiences that prompt students to think critically and creatively, and that develop the skills needed to solve real-world problems and to express their solutions to a sophisticated global audience.“The York School graduates engage in the world because they understand their own passions, are experts in teamwork, feel an obligation to contribute and have the confidence to navigate an uncertain and changing world.”

Fostering international-mindedness

As well as educate their students, schools must prepare them for the challenges of a global career. The International Baccalaureate (IB) describes the phrase 'international mindedness' as "a view of the world in which people see themselves connected to the global community and assume a sense of responsibility to its members. It is an awareness of the inter-relatedness of all nations and peoples, and a recognition of the complexity of these relationships.Internationally-minded people appreciate and value the diversity of cultures in the world and make an effort to learn more about them." With numerous companies sending employees on international assignments and many young people choosing to travel for work, it is more important than ever that schools teach students to have a global outlook. Bryan Nixon, head of school at TASIS The American School in England, says, “Schools must provide learning opportunities that focus on skills as well as content. At TASIS The American School in England, we recognise this challenge to see beyond a narrow definition of academic excellence and help our students develop essential attributes such as resilience, adaptability, curiosity and reflection.”Linda Belonje, marketing and admissions at KIS International School in Bangkok, Thailand, adds, “Students at KIS learn using resources and examples from many countries. They learn how to appreciate different points of view and understand that people who have different opinions can also be right. Students at KIS look at local and global issues and understand the importance of tackling both.”

Cambridge Pathway

The Cambridge Pathway gives students a clear path for educational success from age five to 19 – from Primary to International AS and A Level – and is taught in more than 1,300 schools worldwide. Schools can shape the curriculum around how they want students to learn, with a wide range of subjects and flexible ways to offer them. It helps students develop deep subject knowledge, conceptual understanding and higher order thinking skills. At every stage, Cambridge Assessment International Education also offers Cambridge Global Perspectives, a unique, transformational programme that helps students develop outstanding skills, including critical thinking, research and collaboration.The team at Cambridge Assessment International Education explains, “Every year, nearly a million Cambridge learners from 10,000 schools in 160 countries prepare for their future with an education from Cambridge International. Our worldwide network also offers significant practical advantages in the context of international education, where students and families can be highly mobile.“For example, if a student transfers to another Cambridge school – anywhere in the world – they can work towards the same Cambridge qualifications, making the transition process straightforward and minimising disruption to educational progress. We also deliver an internationally relevant education – culturally sensitive to the locale in which it is taught, but which also takes an international perspective and which sets a global standard of excellence.”

International Baccalaureate

The IB is a broad, internationally recognised qualification that lends itself to continuing in higher education at universities worldwide. It’s taught in 153 countries and, owing to its transferable curriculum, it is a popular choice for globally mobile families. In 2019, more than 169,000 students around the world celebrated receiving their IB diploma results and joined more than 1.85 million graduates, which marks a 2% increase on 2018.Dr Siva Kumari, IB director general, explains its benefits, “Higher Education institutions and employers alike are telling us we need young people who can collaborate, communicate and think critically while creating new knowledge. Research suggests that an IB diploma prepares students with these skills.” The IB is also considered to benefit students in fostering global mindedness. Belonje adds that, “The IB helps students appreciate their own and other cultures, values and traditions. The programme encourages understanding and being openminded. This is evident throughout the continuum of education.Furthermore, the IB is taught in schools all around the world and respected by universities globally... Through the IB, students at KIS learn how to think critically and how to make connections. These qualities help to make them successful in different contexts which can cross borders.”Dr Chrissie Sorensen, head of school at the Bavarian International School gAG (BIS), explains how the IB is creating globally-minded students. She says, “One common thread through all IB programmes is the IB learner profile, which 'focuses on developing internationally minded people who, recognising their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.' It is at the core of what we do and you can see the results in the conversations, service and action our students engage in both internationally and locally.”


Recently, there has been significant investment in encouraging the uptake of STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) – particularly for girls.John Cope, head of education and skills policy at the Confederation of British Industry, said, “STEM subjects are increasingly being recognised by young people as one of the best passports to future career success. Businesses are crying out for more skills in these areas as the world of work is transformed by new tech and the digital revolution."
An example of STEM incentives in action is Firebird MEI – the science and innovation team of students from the Seisen International School in Tokyo, Japan. Firebird MEI qualified for the third time in 2019 for the final of the Conrad Innovation Challenge, an entrepreneurial and innovation-based science competition. The students had interactions and discussions with STEM professionals, as well as diverse companies – from NASA to MIT. Firebird MEI also won the top prize in the Conrad Innovation Summit 2019.Many schools have also embraced art and design within the STEM movement to create STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and maths). The idea behind this is to help students develop a number of skills, including creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving.The British School Warsaw (TBS) hosted the first Europe and Middle East regional Nord Anglia MIT Steam Festival in collaboration with MIT in June 2019. The fiveday event hosted 200 students from 12 schools, who took part in STEAM-related workshops. The courses were created to encourage the design thinking process, promote collaboration and nurture creativity in learners.Alun Yorath, principal at TBS, explained, “The festival was an excellent opportunity for many of our students to share their passion for science and technology alongside our sister schools across Europe and the Middle East.”Technology has exponentially influenced how we educate over the past 10-15 years. Dr Sorenson of BIS adds, “Technology can be a powerful tool, which can bring students learning environments to students, which may otherwise not be feasible or financially possible. I believe AI will push us forward even faster than any technology of the past and the question is whether we are prepared for it.“At BIS we have many exciting innovative practices, with student agency driving much of what we do. Students are not only inspired by their teachers, but teachers are also inspired by their students. We are in the planning stages of our new Creativity and Innovation Center (CIC), where students also had input into the design of the building.“With open spaces and areas to share across disciplines, the building will enhance further what is already being practised in our more 'traditional' classroom setups.”
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