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How 5 school leaders are nurturing future-ready learners
  • Classroom Teaching

By 2030, McKinsey predicts that AI and automation will destroy up to 800 million jobs that presently exist. As we enter this period of intense labour market turbulence, it is more important than ever to adapt curricula, assessment systems and accountability frameworks to ensure that today’s children are prepared for tomorrow.

At the 39th COBIS Annual Conference, held last month, educators from across the globe came together in a session chaired by CENTURY Tech Founder CEO Priya Lakhani to share their innovative approaches to ensuring their learners are prepared to face the challenges of tomorrow. We’ve combined some of their wisdom below.

Encouraging creativity and adaptability

Brian Cooklin, Managing director, Nord Anglia Education India

The two top skills for me are creativity and adaptability. If we are permeating our learning with those two at every opportunity, then I think you see the development of each student and child in terms of self-confidence, and the capacity to apply that knowledge they've gained in their subjects to solving real life problems.

All Nord Anglia schools are part and parcel of the system of a global campus, which links students together. The real beauty of that is that you’re sharing ideas and you're discussing problems together; it doesn't matter what the topic is, it's that exchange of ideas across borders that I think is worth its weight in gold.

Our termly MIT STEAM challenges are also excellent for that. These are run for pupils from the ages of three to 18. Just seeing the pupils’ love of learning and their creativity is wonderful. For example, for the ‘The Future of Flight’ challenge, the three year olds made paper aeroplanes, threw them as far as they could and measured the distance, the four year olds made a plane out of cardboard boxes and the older students, aged five and upwards, designed their own future aircraft on iPads and produced 3d printed versions of them. I'm giving that example because it brings together lots of different things, and I think that that is the key to real life problem solving.

We can’t forget about the importance of subjects like the arts, music, drama, dance and PE, because those subjects do something special in terms of building young people’s confidence, which is so vital. If we can arm children with confidence, then it doesn't matter how much changes, it doesn't matter what happens next. They're up for it.

Establishing the traits and skills you want to develop
Sara Howell, Deputy Head Academic, Rugby School Thailand

At Rugby School Thailand, we are currently developing a learner profile, which started off when the Teaching and Learning Group were exploring and discussing how we wanted our learners to develop throughout their time at school and how we could best prepare them for their future lives and careers. This is a journey that takes them from EYFS all the way to the end of 6th Form.

The three sections of our school, Pre-Prep, Prep and Senior, spent time exploring what we value in each of the specific age areas and then came together to share our thoughts. It was remarkable how similar our views were. We went on further to share ideas with our sister schools in the UK, who had already trialled their own learner profile, and together we came up with a list of dispositions that all of us were going to nurture in our pupils.

Once we had come up with our list as teachers, we used PSHE lessons to start asking the children to reflect for themselves on what they think makes a good learner and why. We then showed them what the staff had come up with, and we asked them to compare or contrast, categorise their values into our dispositions and come up with definitions to broaden their knowledge and understanding.

The next step will be to launch this through our academic and pastoral pathways when we come back for the new academic year. Beyond the classroom, Heads of Year and Tutors are working together to link our values to our rewards system and we are also thinking about all the events that feed into the development of character, such as musical performance, productions, swimming galas, debates, project weeks etc.

This is not a new initiative and schools have always been developing the character of their pupils. We want to, however, define our character development, we want to link the traits to a wide range of situations that our pupils experience in their school years, we want our whole community, teachers, parents and pupils, to share and to engage in the discourse.

Using AI to encourage independence in learners
Steffen Sommer, Principal, Doha College

Our relationship with CENTURY and the proactive use of AI and interactive tools is helping to make our students aware of their own individual shortfalls and to enable them to understand their own work better. We have been a High Performance Learning school since 2018, and we've done exceptionally well in the pandemic with remote learning and blended learning – our delta is positive between what we normally achieved and what we achieved in the pandemic.

The one thing that we have been doing differently, due to the fact that we are an HPL school, is focusing on learning behaviours which is something that had been forgotten about for many, many years, not only in Britain, but across Europe and Asia’s national education systems as well. There was a time when ‘skills’ were the dominant factor in education, yet we had to learn very crudely that, while skills are important and we certainly cannot ignore them, they are of no use without knowledge.

We have to thank Prof. Deborah Eyre for this who, in 30 years’ worth of research distilled the detail of the learning behaviour of the most able students across the education systems in the world and turned them, intertwined with the building blocks for the cognitive apparatus, into the backbone of the High-Performance Learning philosophy which can now be applied effectively to the education of all children who, as we can prove at Doha College, will, as a result, display the exact same learning behaviours and outcomes as the most able children whose DNA has been has been so successfully decoded and made accessible to all by Deborah Eyre.

That has now made our students very agile, self-critical and, most importantly, more independent as learners which is the main raison-d'être of schools, but is something that seemed to have been forgotten over the years. It's not about spoon-feeding, it's not about getting students to regurgitate information – it's about getting them to find things out for themselves. Otherwise, we are not preparing them for the challenges of this world, because they are not aware that making mistakes is a very normal thing.

To tie this in with CENTURY, the use of AI allows children to get on with their learning online and to analyse their own mistakes, and the system will find out where their gaps are and ask them the right questions rather than telling them the answers. That is learning in the 21st century, and that is what it needs to be like in order to prepare the children for an increasingly volatile labour market, where our current Year 10s and 11s will in just a few years be taking on jobs that do not even exist today.

Restructuring the curriculum to develop more holistic learners

Trevor Rowell, Board Director and Chair of Education Committee, Misk Schools

We're trying to create a new paradigm to move away from an obsession with measurable academic outcomes and instead use the techniques of HPL and CENTURY to develop the personal learner attributes, dispositions and qualities that we've been talking about.

We’re creating a curriculum which is based upon four core areas of learning. There's obviously the academic area, which is based upon STEAM or STREAM with an emphasis upon transferable knowledge and capstone projects to develop learners’ metacognition, but we also run a major programme in collaboration with Sandhurst to allow 14-16 year olds to develop their leadership skills and we enable our pupils to gain real world experiential learning through internships. We also encourage the national identity subjects of Arabic and Islamic Studies.

It's so important to emphasise all of those things, not just the academics, in order to develop holistic, self-directed and global-minded learners. We're trying to move away from that rather narrow and overcrowded curriculum and to structure it in a different way.

 Terence Brady, Principal and Innovative Curriculum Development, Misk Schools

We need to make sure that we're not just trying to create the old in a new way. I think now is the time to be genuinely academically courageous in this and to use this pandemic as an opportunity to relook at things.

We decided to identify in the curriculum what exactly is necessary for children to develop cognitively and what they will need to know to move from one stage to the next, and we call that the immovable. It’s there, it's constant. So that's our academic or cognitive core, but the rest is movable to allow us to develop their skills in other areas.

We have a limit of five iGCSEs, our students will not come out with 11 certificates, and we’ll be doing something similar with our 16-18 year olds. They won't have three A-levels or a DP. They will still develop the academic discipline that they will need to move forward, but they will also have that real skill development of leadership, of resilience, and of being work ready. We have already begun our conversations with universities and they are telling us that they desire this pupil profile.

Learn more about how CENTURY is helping international schools to supercharge their teaching and learning.