BusinessDay

How schools can equip students with 21st-century skills – experts

Education stakeholders have advocated for the adoption of a metacognitive approach to learning in primary and secondary to equip students with 21st-century skills in order to boost their employability in the future.

Metacognition, according to experts, is the awareness of one’s thought processes and an understanding of the patterns behind them. It is a reflective skill that is necessary for creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving.

The stakeholders made the advocacy at the recent Nigerian Education Leaders Forum hosted by Century Tech and GL Education, in partnership with the United Kingdom (UK’s) international trade department. The event was an exclusive half-day conference for senior leaders in the education sector aimed at fostering dialogue and collaboration on the future of international education in Nigeria.

“Deep learning promotes the qualities students need to succeed and flourish in the 21st century, by building complex understanding and meaning rather than selfish knowledge,” Kehinde Nwani, founder/chief executive officer of Meadow Hall Education said.

She added that “in the course of this fourth industrial revolution and over the next 20 years, it is believed that millions of jobs will become automated especially with the advent of more sophisticated robots and artificial intelligence.”

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Nwani further advised that the only way to be relevant is to be armed with skills and dispositions which can aid an individual in coming up with creative and innovative solutions to the existing problems that may arise in the future.

Commenting in the same vein, Khipani Bhila, assistant head senior school, Children’s International School noted that metacognition has become important in the educational sphere and apart from the students being metacognitively aware, the teachers also need to be experts in understanding how to impact this to their students.

“One of the things that have been thought of already is developing critical thinkers that can be game-changers. But it starts with them right at the foundation stage, while they are learning, they need to be able to own their own learning process,” Bhila said.

He added: “They need to start thinking about why they are learning this and what can they do to make it a better process for them to learn better. That is the cognitive process they are going through, which is crucial.”

The need for creative and digital skills has become apparent as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to go digital to survive.

The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2030 some level of digital skills would be required for 50-55percent of jobs in Kenya, 35-45 percent in Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Rwanda, and 20-25 percent in Mozambique.

But Nigeria’s young and vibrant youth population of over 65 percent has a huge digital skills gap.

A report by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) highlights the existence of a skills gap, out-dated curriculum in engineering programmes, and a lack of opportunities for students to apply skills learned in the classroom in most African countries, including Nigeria.

Rupert Daniels, director of digital, education, creative, consumer & sports, department for international trade said there is a skills shortage in the UK and probably here in Nigeria as well. “So, it is up to us as an industry to know how we should revive our students of the future to fill in those gaps.”

On the strategies for developing metacognitive learning, Barney Wilson, deputy director of education, Greensprings School recommends thinking tools in developing a common language among students.

“For example, our school has developed the 16 habits of mind in which three are directly tied towards thinking, namely thinking flexibly, thinking independently, and thinking about your thinking,” Wilson said.

Similarly, Craig Heaton, headteacher, St Saviour’s School advised that knowing your students was a great starting point toward metacognitive learning.

“Start with a test to see what they know or do not know, get the knowledge harvest. That is the start of making sure that metacognitive learning and deep thinking is happening in the classroom.”

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