The traditional approach to education must be revolutionised in order to ensure the best outcomes for the current generation of school children, who are increasingly being called Generation Alpha, and whose world differs materially from the world in which their Millennial parents grew up, an education expert says.
"Generation Alpha represents those children who were born after 2010, who are now at the beginning stages of their school careers," says Jenny Coetzee, career educator and founding member of the ADvTECH Group's prestigious Crawford School La Lucia.
Coetzee, currently MD of the soon to be opened Crawford International School in Kenya, has in the course of her decades-long career forged an exceptional reputation as a visionary pioneer and leader in the education space.
She says each generation – whether they be Generation X, Y or Z – grew up in a world different to that of their parents and the generations before them. Just as each of these generations were exposed to unique circumstances, challenges and opportunities, so are the newest generation, whose labelling as Generation Alpha is fast gaining traction.
"These children are the most connected, educated and sophisticated generation ever, so when educating, a school should provide an environment that enhances learning for these digital integrators," she says.
"These children live in an open-book environment – just a few clicks away from any information, they connect in a borderless world – across countries and cultures, and they communicate in a post-literate community where texts and tweets are brief, and where visuals and videos have the greatest impact."
She says schools should be putting special emphasis on developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills, so that students are equipped to see problems from different angles and formulate their own solutions.
"Regardless of the field they choose to enter for their careers, the ability to think, be creative and act quickly is an indispensable tool for the future, particularly in view of increasing automation and the expectation of the workplace of the future, as identified by the World Economic Forum.
"It goes without saying that technology must be embraced in today's schools, but what is of crucial importance, is that it is effectively used to enhance pedagogy and improve learning. In order to achieve this, schools must be equipped with high speed internet and embrace the value of social platforms."
Students must also be exposed to new technologies, such as 3D printing, drones and robotics, and schools should articulate the possibilities these new technologies create. They must also expose students to new fields such as user experience design, and the latest schools of thinking such as design thinking models as a scaffold for project work.
"Just like Generation Z before them, schools looking after Generation Alpha must cultivate the spirit of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurial thinking and leadership are imperative and entrepreneurship courses must form part of the curriculum where collaboration between subject disciplines is encouraged."
Coetzee says it is imperative that schools nurture a global outlook, and that students are able to benefit from strong networks formed with international education bodies. And teachers must be trained in the latest strategies and teaching techniques.
"Children come to us naturally curious about their world and wanting to explore it. Their imaginations are vast and untamed, creating endless amounts of practical and impractical things. As teachers we need to continue to nurture them to develop their curiosity and imagination, as well as teach them how to apply them creatively and purposefully using technology as a tool.
"We may not know exactly what lies ahead for our students in the future, but we know what skills and tools they will need once they get there: to think critically, to work as a team, but most of all to be curious and excited about learning in this world that is so different from the world in which we were raised."