Are we preparing our students for the world outside the classroom?

Education is both directly impacted by changes in our world, yet is also responsible for preparing and ensuring that our society’s children are ready to survive and thrive in our world.

There is no doubt about it, rapidly evolving technologies and economies are having significant impacts on the socioeconomic status of families. Education can either help or hinder this evolution. Among other duties, education must help prepare our students for a future world that will change from what we have always known.

Our schools directly impact not just our students, but our families and communities. Amidst rapidly evolving economies, technologies and changing population demographics, this equates to increasing pressures for many families and communities. There exists a growing trend of strips to working conditions. In addition, our schools are also impacted by, and responsible for supporting through education, our rapidly evolving economies & technologies, grave environmental concerns, societal inequities, & changing population demographics including the aging population, and the First Nations, Metis & Inuit populations which are the fastest growing in Canada.

By the time our elementary students graduate and go out on their own into the world, this world will look very different than it does now. Certainly different than it did 100, 50 or even 10 years ago. Our schools need to look different too. If the rest of the world has changed, and is changing. Education must as well.

Education supports not just our students, but our families and communities. The working sectors, (including education), have been taking on increasing numbers of roles and duties, and not being paid for the extra duties. Yet these increased roles and duties are often taking away from family, play, and cultural values of workers. Fewer employers are willing or able to ‘take care’ of their Employees long term, and it is now quite the norm for individuals to have several careers over a lifetime, or work many different contracts. Retirement dates needing to be pushed back, many individuals unable to retire in their 60’s.

The norms of what safety and security looks like are changing, more quickly than any of us would probably like to admit. The basic needs of safety, economic security, and stability that employers used to be able to offer Ontario workers are slowly being stripped away, as new roles and sectors begin to grow and develop. This adds increasing stress and pressure to perform in the workplace. In addition to further ongoing cutbacks of wages and employee rights, many people are in need of increased help and support to preserve the health and well-being of themselves, families and cultural values. Our schools are right in the middle of these communities, both being affected by these conditions in addition to having the ability to re-affect these conditions in ways that either help, or hinder our students for the future.

This is going to sound like it is right out of a science fiction novel, but the future is looking toward a change of many working class jobs changing over to ‘robots’, and 65% of the workforce involving jobs that do not yet exist, but all involving technology, and a new knowledge economy that our children will be facing.

Our current perceptions of stability, economic security, will not exist in 2030. Education most certainly needs to give the skills to our students to give them the skills to navigate this knowledge economy, be critical thinkers, and flexible. It is these higher order skills that will help keep our workers feeling secure. If our society does not feel secure, then our children will most certainly pay for it in a big way.

Now more than ever, workers need to find effective ways to remain resilient, especially in the face of sudden changes. Though not strategies to ‘fix’ these growing issues with Middle Class workers, the following includes important skills that all individuals need to develop to remain resilient in the face of change.

To Navigate the world of work, education will need to prepare our students with: 

…and the list can go on…

It is no small coincidence that the very same variables that our society needs to be successful in whatever we do, we need to recognize and implement to educate our children. If nothing else, when people are able to think critically, be flexible, adapt to continual changes, and engage in effective communication skills, then they are the very same individuals who will be able to survive difficult or demeaning workplace conditions, think for themselves, effectively engage in problem solving, consider multiple viewpoints, choose appropriate alternatives, and be able to adapt their skills to new types of work.

Education is both affected by these conditions, and also a heavy influence in helping individuals to be successful amidst difficult rapidly evolving times. We need amazing leaders who are willing to step outside of the traditional ways of thinking that will no longer serve our society in the years to come, and truly pay attention to the needs of our students, families, and communities. Educators are forming the bridge that are going to help, or hinder this progression from the old to the new.

What do you think needs to happen in education to help prepare our students for the future?


Deborah McCallum

© Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education, 2012-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Deborah McCallum and Big Ideas in Education with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

3 responses to “Are we preparing our students for the world outside the classroom?”

  1. […] Education is both directly impacted by changes in our world, yet is also responsible for preparing and ensuring that our society's children are ready to survive and thrive in our world. There is no…  […]


  2. Deborah,
    Great post. Agree with everything here. I think one of the biggest challenges is for boards, schools, admin and educators to model said skills so that then educators can reference say, digital literacy or team-building from something the students can witness as authentic rather than as constructed in the bubble of the classroom. Imagine: how cool would that be if the doors were open, and the walls came down, and there were a regular collaborative meta-analysis of what we do as educators across schools, boards, systems that meets the needs of kids, what doesn’t and how we are going to shift to more of the former? Beautiful.


    1. I really appreciate what you said about making the learning authentic. I agree that we now have the tools available to us, so that we do not have to educate students within the bubble of the classroom – we have opportunities now to bring those walls down, as you said, and connect students to meaningful and relevant, authentic learning experiences! Thank you very much for your comments! D:)


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