We have been conditioned. We operate in a performance-driven society and many of our children have been brought up to focus on their achievements throughout all aspects of life, prioritizing performance over everything – even over mental health, and emotional wellbeing.
It has served us well in the past, however, those days have passed, especially under lockdown with so many things now out of our control. Has this same, performance-driven behaviour, left our children feeling anxious and hopeless?
Lisa Illingworth, co-founder, and CEO of Futureproof SA says that re-conditioning is vital in order to take our children into a place of acceptance and renewed positivity. The ability to adapt to the current situation and treat COVID-19 like any other hurdle will be critical to their success and will help to develop much-needed problem-solving skills.
“While the Department of Education and schools alike work to salvage what is left of the year, we need to be realistic, and manage the expectations of ourselves (as parents) and those of our children,” she explains.
“Even the brightest of pupils have struggled to acclimatise to the ‘new normal’. Adding to our woes is that of the ongoing postponement of our re-opening dates; uncertainty around grade phasing, disputes between the Department of Education and the Teachers Union, and the big question of, ‘are we really ready?’”
Lisa suggests focusing on what we can control. “We need to start educating for the wholeness of our children, not just for academic results. The academic results are going to be in direct correlation to how much classroom time remains in the year. And by all accounts, we are going to face another lockdown in the near future as COVID-19 resurges.
However, by developing the mental and emotional facets of the child, we can develop agility and flexibility, we are able to build neuroplasticity, and increase tenacity and resilience, both of which are needed now, more than ever.”
Lisa poses three key questions:
- What can we focus on, if it isn’t marks?
- What will a matric certificate or post-graduate degree mean at the end of a year like this?
- How can students prepare themselves for that eventuality, now?
Soft Skills in the Era of Innovation & Uncertainty
“This is a great time to turn our attention to soft skills. In an era of innovation, a new set of fundamental skills is appearing. These aren’t generally taught at school, and they take years to master,” says Lisa.
Soft skills, such as cognitive flexibility, negotiation, leadership, emotional intelligence, people management, creativity, critical thinking, and complex problem solving, are more important than ever right now.
Forbes.com published an article stating that emotional intelligence is twice as important as technical and cognitive ability to identify top performers.
According to HR Vision, ‘in a world filled with what economists describe as ‘wicked’ problems — problems that are not ‘evil’, but considered wicked because they are near-impossible to solve due to incomplete, contradictory or ever-evolving requirements (think climate change, poverty or terrorism) — complex problem-solvers will be in hot demand’.
It goes on to say that, ‘more than one third (36%) of all jobs across all industries are expected by our respondents to require complex problem-solving as one of their core skills.’ “We’ve been conditioned to focus on the ‘harder, more theoretical’ elements of our education curriculum, but when our children arrive for their first day of work, what separates them from the next graduate will undoubtedly be their soft skills,”
“Hard skills are easier to teach at a young age. As we grow older, we become more resistant. By mastering the soft skills now, we can help to forge / sharpen / create that winning edge. The ability to read a situation, to think on your feet, to lead your workforce through a problem or crisis, and to see it as an opportunity rather than a threat will serve your children well in years to come,” Lisa says.
How to Measure Soft Skills
When we talk about ‘soft skills’ it is often deemed so because they are more difficult to measure, and are often cast aside for those skills that can be demonstrated, and thus, easily measured. This is not the case, one simply need the correct measurement tools.
For example, take scales of Grit, explained in her book of the same name by Angela Duckworth. She concludes that, consistent effort over time is a higher determining factor of success than talent and ability. In reforming education we can begin to determine grit and resilience by measuring the length / period of time that effort is applied to a complex task.
This is just one of several of these tools, that not only build the mindset required to thrive in an uncertain world, one beyond the realms of the classroom, but also arm students with a sense of accomplishment and achievement. Even when their academic year, and the marks associated with it, seem to be under threat.