International Organisation for Knowledge Economy and Enterprise Development
IKED - International Organisation for Knowledge Economy and Enterprise Development
..:: The Educational Model Needs to be Revived around Soft Skills and Entrepreneurial Capabilities

The presence of serious mismatch between educational systems and labour markets in much of the world calls for adjustment. In many places, the main conclusions drawn centre on the observation that students seem to be losing interest in science and technology, and that their skills in mathematics seem to be waning. While often this is indeed the case, IKED underlines the importance of identifying problems that run deeper than that.

In order to bring lasting change, soft skills along with creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship should take centre stage in the educational effort as a whole. Young people can no longer be trained based on a traditional authoritarian, one-size-fits-all, model reliant on one-way information and communication exchange. Learning has to be customized to student needs, and be social, open, and dynamic, while being capable of delivering content personalization through privacy-respecting information and communications tools. It is increasingly commonplace that children have access to IT and advanced software from early on and that they are way ahead of their parents and teachers in this regard. This does not mean they have experience and "know it all". However, schools must be able to compete and co-exist with other means of learning and communication which exert a strong imprint on our children from a young age.

Education should take into account the ongoing substantive findings of modern brain research which brings a range of insights on how children’s absorptive capacity for knowledge evolves. On that basis, children should be taught and trained based on credentials that are much more effective than today's curricula. Some of the lessons have to do with the importance of food intake and physical exercise. Others have to do with the great capacity of children to learn languages at younger age. The school system cannot ignore the empirical evidence, but instead has to foster healthy habits in these regards. As for learning, interest is generated when children are presented with novelty and they find creative ways of examining new material, and as a result become inspired. Learning becomes more effective when children engage in actively interpreting, analyzing, processing and discussing material.

Knowledge-development, structuring and also discipline continue to play their important roles. However, these elements now become part of, and follow from, the adoption of soft skills along with the rise of creativity, motivation, innovation and entrepreneurial capacity as inherent parts of the package at all levels of education to nurture children's abilities as they become part of the society of today and of tomorrow.

Examples of soft skills are:

  • Awareness: Recognising your own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Imagination: Identifying new patterns in complexity and opportunities in uncertainty.
  • Curiosity: Challenging and thinking out of the box.
  • Regulation: Keeping emotions under control.
  • Motivation: Developing optimism and personal drive.
  • Empathy: Reading emotions and motivation in other people.
  • Ability to build and manage relationships.

An educational system that puts priority on rising these abilities from the outset may also need to go through a range of other reforms. For instance, there is often a need of a stronger interface between employers and educational institutions, applying at several levels, with the objective of raising the awareness of skills needed in the workplace and increase students employability. Without a strengthening of soft skills as a basis, and respect for the importance of re-learning and life-long learning, such interface could run into risks of excessive pragmatism and myopia. Likewise, increased emphasis on mathematics, science and technology should not come at the expense of appreciation for the humanities, arts, design, and so forth. Diversity should be embraced and different combinations of skills that can be tailored to students' individual interest will be valuable for any society striving for enhanced creativity and innovativeness. At the same time, the humanities themselves need to respond to their current tendency of defensiveness and looking inward and instead engage across disciplinary and societal boundaries to enhance our understanding the societal and developmental relevance of culture.

IKED is engaged in developing these agendas at several levels. Through various policy studies and action-oriented projects, e.g. in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean/Central America, IKED has brokered new cross-border partnerships in educational projects. On the research side, its experts participate in program activities examining the link between culture and the economy. Within the EU-funded SI-Drive project, which lasted until end-2017, IKED took part in mapped the way social innovations have been unfolding in various areas and examined factors strengthening or hindering their success, including critically those rooted in human mindset, education and culture. Since June 2018, this agenda is continuing under the umbrella of URBiNAT, part of Horizon 2020, where IKED leads work on ensuring citizen engagement in support of natural-based solutions to the problems encountered by modern cities.

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