Preparing our children for a VUCA world​

While the term VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) originated in the post cold war era, it is becoming a common term used to outline the skills needed in the increasingly unpredictable world that our children will inhabit. Artificial intelligence is transforming everything. The automation of the service sector and many other professions is being predicted to occur more rapidly than any of us could have anticipated. An Oxford University study estimates that robots are likely to displace 50 percent of jobs in the developed world in the next 20 years, including but not limited to the professions of Medicine, Law and Accountancy.

Many experts believe that human beings will still be needed to do the jobs that require higher-order critical, creative, and innovative thinking and the jobs that require high emotional engagement to meet the needs of other human beings. In an article published in the Harvard Business Review in 2017, Professor Ed Hess contended that the ‘new smarts’ will be determined not by one’s grades but by the quality of one’s thinking, listening, relating, collaborating, and learning.

innovation means learning to cope with change…

Last week, our College Executive team was invited to a breakfast address on “Humanising the Future of Work”. The speaker, BKindred Founder Penny Locaso focused our attention on the importance of being fearless in a world that is changing so rapidly. She stressed the importance of learning to cope with feelings of fear and vulnerability, being comfortable with discomfort, for without these learning opportunities we are likely to be risk averse in a world that needs agile, resilient learners. She reminded us that innovation means learning to cope with change and uncertainty and she stressed that our ‘Adaptability Quotient’ is more important than either EQ or IQ.

Schooling has to provide opportunities for our children to fail in a safe place. We all anticipate failure when we see toddlers learning to walk or children learning to ride their bikes. We encourage them to pick themselves up and try again. All too often, in the ‘high stakes’ school environment, students lose that confidence to have a go, to put themselves out there. We are doing our students a huge disservice if we do not push them beyond their comfort zone, if we are constantly there to protect them from the inevitable ‘falls’ or if we continue to promote images of perfection.

Future-proofing our students must be front and central to what we do as educators. Developing agility as a learner means that our students need to be flexible, open to change, thriving on new experiences. They need to be able to be reflective learners, quickly recognising different ways to accomplish things, being prepared to experiment and take risks. The ability to collaborate effectively with others and continually seek and act on feedback are central to success. Staff members across Moriah College are building these learning dispositions into their teaching practices. I am delighted to see the traction that is being gained through our participation in the Association of Independent Schools/ UK Innovation Unit’s ELEVATE program.

In a world where ethics matter more than ever, we must increasingly turn to the critical nature of our core values and encourage the human qualities that will help our students navigate their lives beyond their school days.

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About the author

Jan Hart is the Head of High School at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW

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