With increased pressure on cities, the government is struggling to meet the demands of city dwellers such as infrastructure, housing, electricity, water among others. For example, Bangalore has a severe shortage of fresh drinking water and could possibly run out of sources of drinking water in a few years. In such a scenario, how are we and our next generation going to respond to this challenge? Are we going to fight for water for ourselves or are we going to use our empathy to find a creative solution that works for everyone without bias. New challenges of the 21st century will require new skills to cope and seek solutions for them.
Increasingly, it is becoming difficult to predict what the future holds for our children. In a fast changing, complex world – it is not the known but the ability to handle the unknown that is going to define success. For example, if the IT Industry in India declines; will the vast number of software engineers have the life skills to unlearn, relearn and adapt to the changing environment or will they struggle to cope with the change?
Skills of resilience, empathy, creativity, flexibility and adaptability are going to be critical in this unpredictable future. The urgency is in ensuring that every child in this country is equipped with the life skills that are required to be able to adapt to this frantic pace of change and succeed within the unknown. When young people develop the ability to take initiative, solve problems creatively, overcome difficulties, manage conflict, interact with each other with empathy – it helps them overcome adversity, build resilience and prepare to succeed in an unpredictable future.
To be able to achieve that, education reform is critical. Education has to move beyond delivering knowledge to also building capabilities and life skills. Teachers will have to redefine their role from being “Givers of Knowledge and Information” to being “Facilitators of skills and abilities to use knowledge to make the right choices.”
The Government has done a commendable job in increasing enrollment and making education accessible for all and is now focusing on increasing learning outcomes at schools. However, the question to ask is what are the learning outcomes that are relevant for the 21st century? Is it memorization, ability to regurgitate tons of information or is it the ability to be empathic, adaptable and ability to apply creativity to solve critical real-life challenges?