It’s now nearly 60 years since I started at secondary school and it would have been impossible, then, to describe the world we now live in. I find it just as impossible to anticipate what the world will be like 60 years hence – when my youngest grandchild will be coming 60 themselves and their own grandchildren may well be starting (at or beyond) secondary school. Other than, perhaps, to think that the environmental issues that press upon us today will do so more strongly, and that there will still be an unequal division of both income, wealth, health and opportunity both within and between countries. I say these things because out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made, and I cannot believe that we're really going to set aside self-interest, and collaborate to sort out our problems.
As such, it’s a challenge to say much about what an education might do to help prepare for those times other than to say that it ought to raise awareness of the issues and why they are important, and help learners to understand that (and why) they should take them seriously.
However, there is something else that can be said with some certainty which is what Doris Zahner wrote about on her recent HEFCE blog. In this she wrote about the ...
"skills that are applicable to an array of academic domains and can be measured and improved upon through teaching and learning. These are also the same skills that employers have deemed as very important for success in the workplace and in today’s knowledge economy. [They are] the ability to access, structure, analyse, and communicate information."
I know that Zahner is right about this because I still use (60 years on) such skills on a daily basis in a lot of the things I do – such as writing this blog. I learned these mostly through English language lessons, but there was hardly anything I studied at school where there wasn't at least some opportunity to develop these skills, and to keep developing them. Crucially, I have kept on developing them, and I continue to do so because, as Andy Stables has argued, such skills can only really be fully developed through practice in realistic contexts, that is, through life and work – and blogging.