For equality to become reality, I believe we must re-think our education system.
We have to move away from the mechanistic ‘teaching to the test’ approach,
And towards one where soft skills are embedded in every learning experience.
Soft skills are:
The traits and abilities
of attitude and behaviour,
rather than knowledge
or technical aptitude.
These skills – such as communication, leadership, confidence, motivation, self-awareness, creativity, and teamwork – are increasingly recognised as key to enterprise, entrepreneurship, and leadership.
Soft skills are an asset that neither employers nor employees can ignore.
James Caan CBE 2015
Many believe soft skills are critical determinants of survival in the face of current challenges…
They’re the skills we need to adapt successfully to a globalised, rapidly changing, unpredictable environment.
However, there’s a massive soft skills gap, particularly affecting young people:
By 2020, more than half a million workers will be held back by a lack of soft skills.
Development Economics 2015
While these skills are essential to workplace success, as well as personal wellbeing, their value extends even further.
Soft skills are the secret to self-empowerment and equality
If we truly want an education system that develops the individual,
That encourages questioning, reflection, and a curious mind,
That creates a lust for lifelong learning,
And that brings about social mobility and equality,
Then soft skills must be prioritised.
Soft skills open our eyes to reality…
They give us the strength to change things for the better…
And they provide us with the resilience that making change demands.
There is evidence that this new kind of education would have dramatic benefits,
Not only for the young people concerned, but also for society as a whole.
Graham Allen’s report, Early Intervention: The Next Steps, detailed “the immense penalties to society and to the individual of failing to provide a strong foundation of social and emotional capabilities early in life.”
There is also a great deal of evidence that girls in particular will benefit from soft skills development.
In the recently published Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, England, 2014, young women have emerged as a “high risk” group, with more than 25% aged 16 to 24 suffering from common mental health problems.
Girls are now three times more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than boys.
Social Trends in Adolescent Mental Health, Nuffield Foundation 2013
Girls are under intense pressure.
We should all be concerned.
Without the tools that soft skills provide, girls have inadequate support mechanisms with which to combat these pressures.
And rather than using their energy to reach their potential and move towards positions of leadership on an equal basis, they’ll struggle for years to come, to understand and deal with this damage.
If we care about equality we must support all young people – and girls in particular – by putting soft skills at the heart of education.
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