As a result of globalization and advances in technology, people have more access to more knowledge on a cell phone than an Encyclopedia Britannica. An overwhelming amount of information can be stored in technology like Google, YouTube, iPhone, apps, etc. Therefore, one's value is no longer based solely on what one knows.
Unfortunately, our schools are set up and continue, to measure success primarily through content knowledge.
Knowledge is not power for much of our students
The students who are successful have the privileged opportunity and support to absorb content in a conducive environment. This is only true for 5% of all students.
Students who are deemed unsuccessful by schools are often unsuccessful because they are busy navigating the systems required for their survival. Students who not only have to function at school also has the added challenge of navigating their lived experiences.
There are millions of students who have challenging experiences to go through and have yet to acknowledge that they have gained valuable skills from it.
What you can do is more valuable than what you know
This could be a student who’s responsible for younger siblings before and after school while parents, if there are even two, are still working. This could be a student who has to catch two buses to get to school on time, and in the afternoon, has to safely navigate gang territories. Maybe a student has to translate at home from English to Spanish. Perhaps a student has to share a bedroom with siblings, aunts, and uncles. A student might even need to figure out how to help to pay the family bills.
In all of this, these students must still try to develop an identity that fits in all the circles they live in.
21st-Century skills are what corporations want
The most interesting thing we found is that many of the students being deemed unsuccessful exhibit competencies that can be translated directly into 21st-century skills such as critical analysis, adaptability, cross-cultural communication, collaboration, and innovation. These are the skills businesses are looking for in future employees.
So the question now becomes how can we translate the strengths from students lived experiences into a new definition of educational excellence. One that values all student competencies, and encompasses the 21st-century skills required to navigate a new world, in a new way of thinking.
When the world asks who is actually prepared, all the students who learned the content knowledge and how to acknowledge the skills they obtained from their lived experiences, can respond: I am innovative, I can adapt and collaborate, I have cross-cultural communication and critical thinking skills, and I can achieve.
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