Tuesday, April 8, 2014

School and Community Working Together

A business community is most prosperous when it is supported by a strong educational system. The schools train the workforce for the businesses. What's more, a good school helps employers recruit, hire, and retain the best employees.

Likewise, a vibrant business community enhances a school system. Growing businesses bring students to the community. The businesses provide mentoring, internships, and other real-world learning opportunities that schools cannot provide by themselves. Students have jobs to support them while they attend school, and the businesses provide employment opportunities for students upon their graduation.

For these reasons, it is important for schools to work side-by-side with business and industry to enhance the local community.

Traditional education, as we see it in so many school systems, was developed early in the 20th Century. At that time, the primary source of employment in the United States was in manufacturing. So the primary duty of schools was to get students ready to assume their places in the industrial machine of America in the 1900's.

Employees needed to be able to read instructional manuals, take directions, and operate machinery in order to be successful in manufacturing. Schools initially provided instruction in the basic subjects of reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Moreover, schools were developed to emulate factories. Students began work on the bell, just like in the workplace. Then students received their component educational strands, moving from one period to the next throughout the day. This was modeled after the modern assembly line for the sake of efficiency.

Later as our towns and cities grew with their growing industry, societal problems emerged. Schools responded by adding social studies and civics to their curriculum. After World War II, the world was experiencing a revolution in scientific learning. America launched a major national initiative to emphasize science as an important subject matter in our schools.

But with the dawning of the 21st Century, our world changed again. We are in the Information Age, and the driving forces are our advancing digital technologies. As a result, the workplace is again changing. Schools need to ensure we are providing our students with the skills they need to successfully support business and industry.

To be sure we are giving students these skills, we need to look at the research of what businesses need. A researcher Tony Wagner asked business leaders what skills are needed in the modern workplace. In his book The Global Achievement Gap, Dr. Wagner names his Seven Survival Skills as defined by business leaders in their own words. Those seven skills are as follows:

  1. Critical thinking and problem solving
  2. Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
  3. Agility and adaptability
  4. Initiative and entrepreneurship
  5. Effective oral and written communication
  6. Accessing and analyzing information
  7. Curiosity and imagination

Therefore, if schools are doing their best to support business and industry, we need to heed the work of people like Tony Wagner. We need to give students the skills they need for the future, not based simply upon what we have done in the past. We call these skills the Seven C’s of 21st Century Skills. They are

  • Critical thinking and problem solving,
  • Collaboration and leadership,
  • Cross-cultural understanding,
  • Career learning and self-reliance,
  • Communication,
  • Computing and ICT (Information and Communications Technology) literacy, and
  • Creativity and innovation.

Today's employees need to be highly skilled. They need to be independent thinkers, able to solve problems and innovate. In response, we must change the way we teach students, as well as what we teach. Change does not come easily. We ask for parents and patrons to support us as we seek to adapt and change so that we can do our best possible to support local business and industry and advance the prosperity of the United State of America.