The Future of Education

T-Shaped Grads

The Future of Education

The future of education is changing, but are we?

In March 2019, I attended the Council for American Private Education’s (CAPE) biannual board meeting. Here, Donna Orem of the National Association of Independent School (NAIS) presented on “The Third Education Revolution: The disruptive future for schools.” Her presentation included data about global trends in the economy, human behavior, technology and education. (Click here to access the presentation slide deck).

Based on these trends, she argued that a different model of K-12 education is needed to respond to the demands of our future. This includes an interconnected world where artificial intelligence dominates and college degrees are no longer a prerequisite for employment.

T-Shaped Graduates

One of the major trends Orem highlighted was the demand for T-shaped graduates. In the past, there was an emphasis on I-Shaped graduates; that is, graduates with deep knowledge in one subject. However, the future requires more “T-Shaped” graduates. T-shaped grads have depth of knowledge in at least one or two subjects and also possess cross-disciplinary skills and attitudes, such as teamwork and strong communication.

T-Shaped Grads

Some of these T-Shaped skills will be nurtured through a targeted focus on emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence at the Core

To respond to the demands of producing T-shaped graduates, Orem argues,

“Teacher training needs to be redesignedwith emotional intelligence at its core, with more training in asking meaningful questions that will help students’ curiosity unfold and confidence grow. Teachers also need more training in creating emotional climates that support diverse learning experiences and productive social interactions. Teachers need to understand how to be in relationships with students in ways that foster openness, trust, safety and self-discovery.”

By focusing on developing their own emotional intelligence, teachers will be able to in turn help nurture the interpersonal and self-regulating skills that students need in today’s world.

More Than Just College-Track

Orem highlighted that in this new economy, employers will increasingly accept alternative forms of measuring capability such as new credentialing systems. Real world work portfolios may evolve to become the accepted proof of competence with a preference for apprenticeships or internships.

In light of this, Islamic schools might want to consider moving from an exclusive focus on college-ready tracks to real-world experiences that include in-depth volunteer experiences, mentorships with professionals already working in the student’s desired field, and/or apprenticeships in emerging or entrepreneurial fields.

Islamic Schools Rising to the Challenge

We must ask how Islamic schools can better prepare our students for this changing world. Clearly, we are primed to deliver on the social emotional skills our students need in the twenty-first century. What is more, many of these skills are central to the Prophetic character. None, to my knowledge, are in conflict with it. From teamwork and perspective-taking, to critical thinking, empathy and self-regulation, Islamic schools must meaningfully provide social emotional learning for our students and staff.

And as goes with any change in an Islamic school, how will we convince our constituents that these more innovative approaches are necessary? These are important considerations for Islamic school leaders if we are to fulfill our promise of preparing our students for success in this life and the Hereafter.

Shaza Khan, PhD is the Executive Director of the ISLA.

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