The Purpose of School
Seven skills students need for their futureAuthor: Pat Baier, Director
The purpose of school throughout the ages has always served the needs of society and must still continue to do so. It is imperative that schools today meet the needs of our rapidly changing global society. In 14 century Europe, only about 5% of the population went to school. They were mainly boys who attended monastic school to learn to read and write in preparation for religious training. Boys from wealthy families often attended grammar school to learn Latin grammar, logic and rhetoric, so that they had the tools to perpetuate the ruling classes.
Mass public education grew during the industrial revolution when skilled workers were needed. However, a broad humanistic education was still considered necessary for those who would become leaders and thinkers.
Our current globalized society needs young people who have a broad understanding of global historical concepts, of science, mathematics, geography. They need to be exposed to the arts and literature. They should learn a second or third language. They do not need to be experts in any of these areas while still at school. We certainly shouldn’t be placing an emphasis on learning facts that will soon be forgotten, but rather on connecting these subject areas to further a general understanding of how the physical and social world works.
Students today must also learn skills which will enable them to contribute meaningfully in a global knowledge economy. The Centre for Global Education lists seven skills students need for their future. They are:
- Critical thinking and problem-solving.
- Collaboration across networks and leading by influence.
- Agility and adaptability.
- Initiative and entrepreneurialism.
- Effective oral and written communication.
- Accessing and analyzing information.
- Curiosity and imagination.
Some of these are skills difficult to grade or assess in the traditional way, but schools have a duty to ensure that students are enabled to develop them.
Equally, it is vitally important to view school in our global world as a place for young people to learn empathy, to consciously celebrate diversity, to understand the meaning of dignity, to develop a moral compass, and to use their voice to stand up for what they believe is right.