Psychology Melbourne Blog

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Educating our children to correct our mistakes

Edited by Jill Wright,

One of the fascinating things about being a grandparent is the opportunity it gives you to watch young people develop skills and interests and indeed entire personalities. So often they amaze me with their intelligence. They are so much smarter than I remember being as a child.

And just as often I tell myself that they will have to be smarter - a lot smarter - given the mess that they will inherit from us.

I was thinking about that this morning, as I read a fascinating article by Patrick Griffin, Professor of Education at the University of Melbourne, on the Child and Family Blog.

Griffin has spent the past five years working on the Assessment of Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ATC21S) project, funded by technology giants Cisco, Intel and Microsoft, and aimed at understanding how students' social and cognitive skills can be developed through working together and solving complex problems collaboratively.

The ability to work collaboratively is regarded as such an essential skill by international authorities that they are pushing for the so-called "4 C's" - critical thinking, creativity, community and collaboration - to be given equal importance in the development of school curricula as the traditional 3 Rs of reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic.

As Griffin points out in the article, "When today's five-year-olds, who are just starting school, eventually leave formal education, they can expect to enter a society dramatically different from the one we now know. We have to prepare many of them for jobs that don't even exist yet. Equally worrying, we risk educating young people for jobs that may have disappeared by the time they leave school, or very soon after."

But I wonder if we need a little more creativity to understand the implications. It seems to me that jobs might not be the only thing that will be radically different when these five-year-olds become young adults.

What if today's children actually used their 4C's and 3R's to reinvent our society, and fundamentally change some of its institutions?

Coincidentally, as I was writing this, Psychology Melbourne's founder and director, Jill Wright, was at a conference in Melbourne at which organisational psychologists discussed the way organisations are already changing as a result of new technology, led by companies like Google and Amazon.  And one speaker suggested one reason why today's children might be smarter than the children of earlier generations: quick access to vast volumes of information that did not exist until quite recently.

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About the editor, Jill Wright

Jill Wright (MAPS, AAFT, AICD) is the Director and Principal Psychologist at Psychology Melbourne. Jill was twice elected General Director of the Australian Psychological Society and established the Study Group Network. Find out more about Jill Wright.