Understanding and Preparing for the Tipping Points Ahead

The Children’s School is honored to have Donna Orem, the president of the National Association of Independent Schools, on campus to give our spring Parenting Lecture. We’re excited to hear her up-close view of how schools, particularly independent schools, are evolving to better prepare students for a new era in education. Orem will draw upon her expertise to describe how K–12 schools will help students thrive in a world that is being rapidly reshaped by computing technology.

What’s ahead for your children? Donna Orem sees a “third revolution” happening in education, prompted by two interdependent forces: “the rise of smart machines and the decline of the full-time, career employee.” These two forces are putting pressure on schools to re-imagine and retool K–12 education. As Orem writes, “Whichever direction these new forces drive us, all workforce forecasters agree that people are likely to need training throughout their lives to keep up with the pace of change.”

One set of skills that will be of the essence during an era of rapid change is self-insight and emotional intelligence. In a global, interconnected economy, Orem writes, “Deep self-knowledge, emotional regulation, responsible decision-making, and empathy and perspective-taking will be particularly important.” And it is a lesson not lost at TCS—as parents are acutely aware, these all-important social and emotional skills are acquired and practiced early in life. For this reason, our teachers carefully nurture each child’s emotional well-being and give students rich opportunities to express their thoughts and feelings. As well, the School’s culture of respect, thoughtful communication and warm relationships provides a model for children of a cooperative and adaptable community.

Another intangible but vital skill that schools can foster in children, even at an early age, is the capacity for self-direction—and finding a sense of purpose in their learning. As Orem notes, a 2017 report on “The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out” suggested that schools find more ways to support students’ self-discovery. In this approach, children would have opportunities to develop an image of their future selves, the freedom to shape their own learning pathways, and the time to pursue individual projects and work through uncertainty, ambiguity, risk and failure early on. Of course, this focus on self-direction is one we have long embraced at TCS, where the teachers encourage your children’s independence and natural curiosity. Our students delve into projects and subjects that intrigue them and for which they eagerly acquire and practice new skills. With many pathways to learning on offer, TCS students are developing the confidence to shape their own learning.

Beyond the early years, Donna Orem will give parents an idea what’s ahead, and how secondary schools are adapting to meet the needs of students in an economy in which many tasks, and much complex decision-making, will be done by smart machines. All sorts of ideas are bubbling up in this “third revolution,” from making training in systems thinking and data literacy more widespread, to giving students the option to have a mission-driven or entrepreneurial focus, to making lifelong learning easier—and cheaper—to access. You won’t want to miss Orem’s overview of the schools of the future, for which her outlook is optimistic: “I believe the value of independent education will be magnified as families seek an education for their children that provides building-block skills for a digital economy.”

We’re all ears to hear what education will look like in the future!