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Are Indian schools preparing our kids with skills for 2040?

Insight from The Red Pen!



Namita Mehta

In the past, it was accepted that an education system that revolved around competitive exams would prepare students for the job market. That is, however, not the case anymore. Just as our grandparents could not predict the impact of the digital revolution, we cannot perfectly predict the future of technology, industry and business. Today’s jobs are fluid, requiring a wide range of skills, from critical thinking to communication and domain knowledge. A singular focus or ability to do well on an exam doesn’t offer the opportunity to develop those skills.

It is encouraging to see an array of meaningful opportunities in art, music, social service, drama, debate and more being offered at schools. An emphasis on development outside the classroom is definitely increasing, as Indian schools understand the value of learning beyond just academics. Many schools across the country are also engaged in a dialogue about training and skilling of teachers – this is indeed important because teachers are role models who will be the facilitators of change.

At the same time, there is more that needs to happen. We cannot perfectly predict the demands of the future, which means that our children need to learn to be flexible and adaptable. To prepare students, we need open and flexible curricula, which emphasize interdisciplinary learning and exploration. We need to ensure that learning is a lifelong process, not one that ends with Class 12, a bachelor’s degree or a CA qualification.

Based on my experience and dialogue with school representatives and education services providers, here are some of the skills that I think will be useful for students in the future and which education ecosystems should encourage and nurture.

Analyzing and understanding information

Information is now available at our fingertips. With a quick Google search, you can find the capital of any country, the date of a history-defining battle or even the genus and species name of an organism. Focusing on understanding, processing and drawing effective conclusions about this data is more important than memorizing volumes of mundane, searchable content.

In many international schools, the curricula encourage students to do comprehensive research, analyze the findings and present their conclusions to peers. This gives first-hand experience of how to source, organize, analyze and apply data in a meaningful way.

Questioning and critical thinking

Traditionally, in India, the teacher’s word was gospel. If they said something was correct, you accepted that as the truth. But for our children to become strong critical thinkers, and to look beyond existing paradigms, they have to be able to question “truths”. Schools and teachers need to starting seeing themselves as facilitators of conversations, asking probing questions and encouraging discussion.

Encouraging healthy debates and asking questions will lead to greater awareness and ownership of issues that impact communities.

Problem solving

Currently students see problem solving as doing mathematics sums on paper or filtering information from a text. Content in schools should be more application-based. Whether you set up maker spaces and design thinking labs or optimize resources based on your budget, there are inventive ways to get students to use tools and available materials to address challenges in their immediate environments. This is an essential step toward hands-on, real-time problem solving.

Basic Technology Skills

Many schools do not teach basic technology skills to younger children due to a lack of trained staff, budget, facilities, or an understanding of how to infuse technology into other parts of the curriculum. While students might learn computer languages through tuition or outside classes, it is just as important for them to learn job-ready skills such as coding, website design, Excel and PowerPoint, at school.

Written and Oral Communication Skills

Communication skills are vital in today’s workplace and will continue to play an important role in the future. In this digital age, schools need to embrace and teach students effective writing on multiple channels. Schools should help all students, not just those involved in MUN, elocution and theater, develop dynamic, engaging presentation skills.

Whether it is written or oral communication, students need to be adept at getting their points across in a timely, efficient and coherent way, across a range of media and platforms.

Global Citizenship

We live in a world where each person is a part of many communities, whether defined by geography, shared interests or cultural heritage. Encouraging our children to understand the power of collaboration is critical in ensuring that holistic, scalable solutions emerge from organizations and institutions.

It is crucial to engender empathy and compassion in young minds, while helping them develop collaborative skills; this needs to a collective effort - at home, an integral part of school and in the wider community.

No one can predict what the future will look like, so it is important for schools and institutions to prepare our children with interdisciplinary skills: the future workforce needs to be multiskilled, adaptable and tech savvy.

Learn more: The Red Pen

About the author

Namita Mehta studied at Oxford University, where she received her undergraduate degree and Master’s in Molecular & Cellular Biochemistry. Her interest in working with people led her towards student advisement and college counseling.

Namita established the University Guidance Counseling Department at B.D. Somani International School in Mumbai and ran it for over three years. As an in-house counselor, she advised students on effective profile development, managed the university application process, and developed relationships with university admissions offices.

At The Red Pen, Namita continues her goal of helping students plan their educational journeys, and works to motivate young people to uncover interests and pursue passions. Her work spans several levels, including boarding and day school admissions, profile development, and undergraduate applications.

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