What will the job market look like in 20 years?
Our answers to this question will shape our children’s educations, and much earlier than many parents would like to think. In a recent article on The Upshot, The New York Times explored the conundrum of preparing preschoolers for an automated future economy that we can’t fully foresee.
While technology has always made it difficult for us to envision the future in practical ways, automation increases that unpredictability. Automation means that many of today’s jobs will be done by machines, and that future functions may never be completed by humans at all. All this technological advancement is demanding an evolution of the American workforce. To remain relevant throughout their careers, today’s young people will need to be more flexible and agile than ever before.
Preparation begins in Preschool
It turns out that the fundamental skills that put people on a path to success or failure in the modern economy are formed very early in life. Achievement gaps start to show up before kids hit kindergarten. Plenty of high-quality early coding programs are now available both in and out of school. But while it seems to make sense to set kids on a fast track toward coding mastery, at a time when engagement in school is plummeting, screen time can’t be the only answer.
The rush to introduce coding skills ever earlier is on, and with good reason. Still, researchers urge balance. While experience acquiring coding languages will be key to our kids’ scholastic careers, off-screen learning will remain critical. To compete with artificial intelligence, tomorrow’s professionals need to stay on top of skills that rest squarely in the human realm. Empathy, collaboration, and problem-solving will help our progeny maintain their command over the machines.
Clearly, coding is valuable, but the skills learned away from the screen will arguably make the biggest difference where future careers are concerned. The developer of the Kibo Robot and the ScratchJr coding language for kids points to computational thinking – real-world problem solving – as the more widely applicable skill. Code sequences aren’t the only solutions that involve success, failure, and prototyping. Kids can think like coders in all kinds of situations just by following their curiosity and making things. By teaching children to cooperate, communicate, and cope with failure, we can impart the more human aspects of problem-solving.
Diversified Learning Experiences
The best-prepared children won’t necessarily be those who log the most hours in front of a computer. They’ll be those who experience a healthy balance of interaction with humans, objects, and machines. When kids are good at working with all of these variables, they’ll have the perspective to transcend siloed thinking. As Harvard professor Stephanie M. Jones puts it, “if you raise and educate kids to be flexible, problem solvers, and good communicators, they can adapt to a world that is new.”
Adults need to adapt, too!
The challenge we face as adults is to remain flexible in imagining new ways to prepare children for a job market we can’t reliably predict. The cooperation and creativity we exercise in developing educational experiences will go a long way toward honing the skills we hope to impart. By emphasizing immersive, experiential learning, we can raise a generation of creative and thoughtful people who care about solving the problems of the future.
Our FasTrack Science Enrichment Class takes advantage of children’s natural curiosity and investigative nature and inspires their minds to explore the world around them. The hands-on, interactive, inquiry-based approach to teaching helps kids develop computational thinking skills while also having fun. To build a strong foundation, kids as young as 2 learn to explore the world using all their senses in FasTrackTots. No matter what’s happening in the classroom, FasTracKids has a program to help your child leap ahead at any age.