Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Discussing education and skills with the 2012 OECD Global Youth Competition winners

The winners of the 2012 OECD Video Competition hail from no fewer than three continents and four very different countries: Uganda, India, South Korea and Australia. Yet despite this, the videos they made on education and skills all highlight the need for major change in education systems if they are to provide young people with the skills necessary to thrive in the 21st century.

Kato Jonan, 24, (Uganda) Rachit Sai Barak, 20 (India), Sharon Chan, 24 (Australia), and Young Bu Kwon, 25 (Korea), sat down with us to expand on their views on education and skills.

educationtoday: Your videos all touch on the inadequacies of formal education. In what ways can schools better equip young people with the skills they need to have successful careers and be engaged citizens?

Rachit: Schools are competitive and stressful in India. The government treats young people as a future resource rather than treating them as a stakeholder. The focus should be on providing youth with life skills.

Kato: Students see education as something they have to go through without thinking of what it can help them become or what jobs it can help them get. The government should put aside some funds to create institutions to teach young people practical skills when they're not in school.

Sharon: Schools focus too heavily on books and studying. They need to look at skills outside of the classroom and help students apply those skills and fine-tune them. They should create a strong relationship with the community to see what skills are required.

Young Bu: Many Koreans think education is the only way to get a job, but then when they get a job they are disappointed. They learn and learn but they don't know what their goals are.

Kato: What I think should be done is to provide mentors to young people so they can decide what they want to do.

 
educationtoday: Do you think focusing on providing young people with the right skills for the job market is a good approach? 

Sharon: I think you can talk to employers to see what they require and try to build that into students' education, but at the same time what students require should be considered. That could be achieved through mentoring programmes.

Rachit: Education is not just about skills and jobs, it's about knowledge. I think the Better Life Index is a great example to look at. It would be good to give that wide perspective to children.

Kato: If the government wants to encourage people to take up certain professions, they have to start from childhood. But students should not have to pay for their education, as is the case today in Africa.

Rachit: The focus should be on potential not skills.

educationtoday: In your opinion, what are the key skills young people should be taught? 

Sharon: Decision making, the ability to innovate, problem solving and critical thinking are all important.

Rachit: Government should focus on life skills and practical skills.

Kato: I think we need entrepreneurial skills and computer literacy.

Young Bu: The most important thing for young people is to know themselves.

 
educationtoday: The need for creativity and innovation is a common thread in your videos. How can schools encourage creativity and and ultimately foster entrepreneurship?

Sharon: My school had a lot of competitions and projects where I had to think for myself and solve different problems. In my opinion, it's something schools can't teach you; they can help you develop it.

Rachit: In India, you see almost no use of music or dance in school. They can be used to help children learn, but they're not considered important. Using these arts to teach can help young people think differently.

Kato: They need to put students in concrete situations. In Uganda, we have a subject called Entrepreneurship, but you don't acquire any practical skills, you simply memorise information to pass an exam.

Young Bu: In Korea, students spend around 12 hours per day studying. We're not taught to discuss, to communicate; we're just taught to study. We learn by memorising, so there is little creativity. There should be free time at school where students can do what they want.

Sharon: There should be an environment that provides support and allows students to take risks.

Kato: Children who have non-academic skills should also be given a chance.

 
educationtoday: Your videos also touch on the power of co-operation to help children learn effectively. How do you think schools can be made more co-operative?

Sharon: Teamwork is the ideal scenario for encouraging co-operation.

Rachit: There should be collaboration among different fields, such as science, commerce and humanities.

Kato: It should be introduced in lower levels. It's often considered cheating when students work together, but that's what happens in companies.

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