The future for today’s children is uncertain.
Our planet is on the brink of a climate change catastrophe. Urbanization in the developing world will continue at an accelerated pace and food production will need to increase by 70% by the middle of the century in order to feed the rapidly expanding population.
In addition, an estimated 75 million jobs may be displaced by automation and robots by 2022, while another 133 million new roles may be created to bridge the gap between humans, machines and algorithms.
In order for children to join tomorrow’s workforce, a lot of emphasis is put on the core STEM subjects such as coding and engineering. But it is also important that EQ-related soft skills are mastered in tandem, so that humans will have the upper hand on robots.
The theme of this year’s Global Education and Skills Forum is ‘Who is Changing the World?’. And the 10 teachers who have made the shortlist for the 2019 Global Teacher Prize demonstrate many of the soft skills needed to drive change.
Each of the 10 are changing the lives of their students and their local communities – and have inspired them to shape their own futures and become changemakers in their own right.
Soft skills, like communication and teamwork, tend to be self-developed rather than taught, so these teachers have been successful in creating the right conditions and opportunities – often outside of the normal curriculum – for their pupils to grow and develop in these areas.
Empathy and acceptance
British finalist Andrew Moffat’s mission is to break down negative stereotypes and promote inclusion and acceptance.
He realised that many of society’s problems stem from people being labelled as ‘outsiders’, rather than being accepted.
Among initiatives he introduced at the predominantly Muslim school where he teaches in Birmingham, is the No Outsiders programme, which encourages inclusiveness and acceptance of people from diverse backgrounds.
His own pupils can speak confidently about the different communities in the city – and their parents are supportive. The programme is being extended to other cities in the UK.
As our societies become ever-more globalized, building empathy and acceptance among the younger generations will give them an interconnected worldview, enabling them to consider complex issues from another’s perspective – and understand how their actions will impact on others.
One of the things Martin Salvetti did to make an impact when he returned to his old school as a tutor, was to set up a weekend football club for teachers and pupils. It broke down social barriers between them as they all worked together for a common goal (quite literally).
The success of the club inspired Martin and his colleagues to achieve more for the school in Argentina – and they won funding for a student radio station that provides his pupils with a platform to campaign for positive change.
And he also established a project that sees students work together – sharing their hard skills in electronics, mechanics and metalwork – for a higher purpose, that of saving horses used for labour, by swapping them with salvaged motorbikes and cars.
On a global scale, multilateralism – the idea of countries working together to achieve a common purpose – is increasingly important to bring about positive change today – and the changemakers of tomorrow will be those who can collaborate well with others.
Resilience and perseverance
The more resilient we are, the more easily we bounce back from setbacks, stress or trauma.
New York-based Melissa Salguero learned determination and perseverance at school, when she overcame difficulties to lead the marching band.
Now as a teacher in one of the most deprived schools in the South Bronx, she established the school’s first band and raised money for instruments which were then stolen and destroyed during a break-in.
Undeterred, she turned the situation on its head, using it as an opportunity to encourage her students to persevere. Together, they made a music video of their story, which went viral and raised $200,000 for the school.
In India, Swaroop Rawal became a teacher after seeing first-hand how certain styles of education could make children stressed and have a knock-on effect on family life. She set out both to change methods of teaching and help children acquire vital life skills to help them cope better.
Resilient children are brave, curious, adaptable – and able to bring about change even when things are really tough.
The problem Hidekazu Shoto had and saw around him, was how to improve English language skills and become fluent without leaving Japan.
But the internet has no borders, so he turned to the hugely popular game Minecraft as a way to connect his students to others around the world – enabling them to make friends, communicate in English and collaborate on building projects.
Communication is perhaps the key soft skill which links them all together, and without which teachers wouldn’t be able to inspire and transform the lives of their students.
The children of today are the changemakers of tomorrow – and will have varied challenges to overcome. But with inspirational teachers educating them, the future is in safe hands.