Social, environmental, and economic challenges are always present, no matter what era we happen to be in. Despite the fact that we’ve created new problems in the last few decades, we’ve also gained awareness and made progress toward innovative solutions. In order to continue building a better future, we need to prepare the next generation for global issues that affect our planet as a whole and get kids thinking about how to solve those problems. That process starts in the classroom. Here are 5 important reasons why.
Education can help students think on a global level
In addition to learning themselves, students have the opportunity to think on a global level while in school. Learning about the opportunities they have, as well as the effort that goes into getting children into school worldwide can give students a broader perspective, and make them think about how we can solve global problems as they enter the workforce. 124 million children and young people are not in school—threatening their futures and perpetuating many of the problems faced in countries around the world. Awareness and efforts to bring down this number are increasing, but students can help by thinking globally and understanding the bigger picture of education.
Innovative companies need to fill STEM positions
We already have a wealth of innovative companies with the immense resources needed to create the technology of tomorrow. They’re already starting to build the future, but many of them are struggling with talent shortages. Because there are fewer STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) graduates than there are open positions, these companies are struggling to reach their goals. Companies hoping to fill positions for engineers, data scientists, developers, and other roles often come up short. In fact, in the big data industry (a field with incredible growth), 83% of data scientists noted that there was a talent shortage in the field.
Getting students interested in STEM fields as early as possible is key to increasing the talent pool and ensuring these important projects come to fruition. Teachers can start educating students in preschool and elementary school to get excited about these fields. Providing these opportunities to learn STEM skills benefits both the student and the global community: these positions pay well and can contribute to positive change. Girls especially need to be encouraged to enter these fields, as there is a persistent gender gap in many STEM fields today.
Provide students with opportunities
Think of how many experiences kids have in their homes. Most parents try to give their children options and opportunities, but with busy schedules and differing resources, many children won’t get the opportunities others will. The classroom offers kids opportunities they wouldn’t have elsewhere, whether that means having a class pet, going on field trips, or creating engineering marvels. These opportunities give kids a chance to explore their interests and develop future passions.
Personal impact of teachers, counselors, and peers
Everyone students interact with make a difference in their lives, including teachers, counselors, and peers. These role models and peers all influence behavior, interests, and inspiration. The positive impact of the people who surround students at school can inspire them to change the world—they could even become the next Steve Jobs or Barack Obama! Parents are great role models, but children sometimes are most inspired by their teachers and counselors—someone they can look up to and learn from outside the home.
Classrooms help students evolve
Because they are surrounded by other children, opinions, and experiences, they are exposed to a diverse range of perspectives and experiences. Homeschooled children might not have the same kind of access to these different environments, which can help them evolve and develop their own interests and skills. Empathy, a key quality for a better future, is just one skill students can develop through these experiences. Through peer interaction, they hone their social skills and develop strong bonds.
The Digital Future
Many teachers are leveraging technology to ensure their students can thrive in a digital world. 90% of future jobs will require these skills, and because of this, they’re starting to become more of a priority in classrooms around the world. For a better future, our children have to be prepared with a diverse skill set that includes “soft skills” like empathy and communication, as well as technical knowledge to help solve the world’s problems. All that starts in our classrooms.
Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in multiple industries including health and wellness, wearable technology, nursing, and education. When she's not watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga and reading a good book on the beach.