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Why competency-based, interdisciplinary learning is the future

Never has it been clearer that we need radical alternatives to traditional education. Leaving school with top grades is no longer enough to secure your dream job: you need a host of competencies, core values and soft skills matched to a modern workplace. And more than ever, it is likely that your job will come not as a result of a direct application but through an offer made from someone in your network.

Close collaboration between schools and industry has been the focus of leaders in governments across the world. The Scottish government, for instance, has introduced a curriculum to teach career skills through mapped learning experiences alongside the traditional academic curriculum. Scandinavia – often seen to be at the forefront of education – has developed competency-based curricula, ensuring the development of the whole child. There is a nationalised curriculum that Scandinavian teachers follow – written as helpful guides, rather than the main standard. This creates a culture centered around growth, rather than measurement and links well with a business environment, where performance is measured on competencies and capabilities as opposed to the ability to secure top marks in a test.

For schools with a more traditional focus, competencies will have to be encouraged in other ways. At GEMS FirstPoint School (FPS), we have started our own development of a competency-based curriculum that’s linked through our school’s core values – Caring, Creating, Enterprising, Exploring, Inquiring, Innovating, Leading and Thinking. Each of these has been mapped to progressive age-related expectations for students from FS1 to Year 13 and to ensure students are university-ready and job-ready. By doing so, we aim to put future skills at the heart of education. These are not new skills designed for a new age, but skills inherent in what it means to have a positive influence – effective communication, leadership and empathy.

hg0088手机版登录These skills cannot be replaced by AI or digital technologies. By working with local and global industries, we can glean what it is companies need from the workers of tomorrow. And to listen more closely to these needs, we have developed a series of interviews, pre-recorded videos and panel discussions in which entrepreneurs, business owners and leaders of industry talk about their career journeys, the challenges they have faced and what advice they would offer young people. Through these, students can see how closely aligned the worlds of education and business can be – and indeed need to be. It also underlines the importance of providing industry-level learning opportunities that are traditionally only available to graduates.

The notion of merging academics with more worldly competencies is becoming an increasing focus among schools and education providers. The KHDA’s Rahhal programme, a Dubai Future Foundation initiative to take Dubai ten years into the future in just two years, reflects this. Meaning ‘traveller’ in Arabic, the message of Rahhal is simple: the world is a classroom and all learning counts. From their own design, Rahhal is a fully customisable platform that will help turn anyone, and any organisation, into a learning provider, and turn all of us into lifelong learners.

The benefits of starting to think about career goals and destinations from an early age are multiple, allowing students to take up every relevant opportunity offered to them, both through the curriculum and extra-curricular activities. Of course, not every child knows what they want to be when they ‘grow up’, which is why career-related activities, workshops and events should be introduced from as early as the Foundation Stage years. Useful activities might include things like enterprise schemes where students set up their own pizzeria, for example, or researching the professions of people who have helped us through COVID-19.

Involving parents in these discussions is key: they are one of our greatest assets, as they are living the values and competencies future businesses will ask of our children. Having them share in their child’s learning experiences as well as in distanced learning activities will develop the core skills of communication and interaction and will help to build the child’s confidence in safely fostering a network outside school.

hg0088手机版登录Yet developing world-readiness alongside a packed curriculum can be a challenge for students. This is why time within the curriculum needs to be provided, to complement the wealth of online webinars, digital courses and even remote externships already available outside the curriculum. At FPS, we share these types of opportunities daily with our students and with our parents too. For older students, we provide opportunities to excel beyond curriculum expectations by experiencing aspects of degree-level modules during their school studies along with enhancing opportunities to participate in projects with university students and industry professionals.

COVID-19 has provided curriculum changes that were made on a temporary basis, but there is now a wonderful opportunity to further enhance our curriculum. Moving online has meant information can be accessed quicker, in more personalised ways and at any time, so building a portfolio of skills, competencies and academic achievements should now be a realistic goal for all students. This proves that competency-based, interdisciplinary learning is indeed the future of business, and of humanity.

About the Author

Siobhan Dickerson, Director of Specialism, Careers and Higher Education Advisor, GEMS FirstPoint School – The Villa.

After graduating from the University of Oxford with a degree in English Language and Literature, Siobhan Dickerson first worked for a global bank in their private wealth management team before following her true vocation to support students at a local school. She started her teaching career in 2004, in the North of Englandhg0088手机版登录. Siobhan has taught at both state and independent schools, and as Lead Teacher consulting on improvements in English, overseeing several schools, and she has also worked as a trainer for new teachers.

hg0088手机版登录She became Assistant Head Teacher in 2012 and achieved her NPQH in 2018. She moved to Dubai in 2017 to take up the post of Head of English at GEMS FirstPoint School – The Villa, leading the school through its first set of GCSE and A Level results. In 2019, she was appointed as the school’s Careers and Higher Education Advisor and subsequently promoted to Director of Specialism. Siobhan works closely with staff, parents and the local and global communities to ensure students at FirstPoint have the information and opportunities they need to aim high and achieve their future goals.

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