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We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims. (Buckminster Fuller)

Thursday, 23 May, 2019

Recently I attended a ‘futurist’ conference which explored the rapidly changing nature of employment and the implications for education. One thing that emerged strongly from the conference was the need to ‘teach’ and nurture ‘transferable skills’ alongside, or embedded in, the curriculum and discrete disciplines. By transferable skills, we mean those qualities which can be transferred from one situation to another and which are not content-dependent. This is particularly relevant to secondary education as there can be a growing tension between developing these skills and the learning of content in preparation for final examinations.  

We are informed that universities / colleges and employers alike see these skills as most important for employability in an ever-changing, often unpredictable, employment landscape.

Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success.  (Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip.)

It has always been true that a school offers much more than the learning of subject content. A student might be ‘studying’ Chemistry or Music or History as distinct disciplines but learning so much more broadly in the process.

As part of the IBDP and IBCP curricula, we have tasks such as the Group 4 (Sciences) Project, the Extended Essay or Reflective Project which provide ideal opportunities to practise the cognitive skills of critical thinking, analysis, reasoning, problem solving, decision-making and adaptive learning and the interpersonal skills of personal and social responsibility, ethics, initiative, self-direction and perseverance. As the Group 4 Project is a collaborative activity, it also provides practise in collaboration, co-operation, teamwork, negotiation, empathy and perspective taking.

Our extensive extra-curricular programme covering creativity, activity and service learning, is fertile ground for the development of the skills already mentioned as well as those of self-monitoring, self-evaluation and self-reinforcement. A number of the activities like Model United Nations and our opportunities for student leadership nurture leadership, responsibility and assertive communication.

Our boarding community, through its impressive and enjoyable student-run culture nights develops the increasingly important understanding and practice of interculturalism  

Beyond the school gate we have IBCP internships, service activities and day trips which all involve a number of transferrable skills. Of course, many of these skills are developed and practised at home too, reinforcing the school’s partnership with families.   

When I consider the vast array of opportunities and activities in and beyond the classroom to learn these broader skills, I am confident that we are preparing our students well for the future and equipping them with a tool-kit of transferable skills to be the ‘architects’ Fuller suggests both for themselves and for the communities in which they will live.