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  • Writer's pictureKristyna Skriczka

Skills for children's future?

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

A boy looking at a smartphone
Skills for children's future?

The WEF has come up with (yet another) list of skills children need to be developing for our "prosperous" future. Creativity, Digital skills, Collaboration, Global Citizenship and Environmental Stewardship are the top five.

In their report, children's (supposed future) happiness is smoothly translated into benefits to the global economy ($2.54 Trillion exactly). In the video shared on LinkedIn children are seen as assets with a potentially good return on investment. Yay. What a beaming picture of our societal values.

But how can we develop children's skills (especially creativity, collaboration and environmental stewardship-regardless of what WEF says these are useful!) when most children (at least in the West) barely spend any time in nature and are not allowed enough free, unstructured play at school?

  • One report showed 75% of children in the UK are getting less time outside than prison inmates

  • I have written previously about the paradox that Organic chickens get better-legislated provision of outdoor space than nursery school children (in the UK)

  • The average American child spends about 4 to 7 minutes a day playing outside and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen.

All this despite the fact that the benefits of being in nature and free unstructured play are well evidenced in a study after study after study.

These top five skills WEF lists as essential to children's future lives, sorry, I mean essential to the global economy, will not be developed by sitting at school desks all day long doing worksheet after worksheet. These skills will be developed by spending time in Nature, playing (freely), being nurtured and supported to take control of one's own learning and developing individual interests and talents.

And the skill of "Environmental stewardship" (defined by WEF as ‘understanding the fragility and finiteness of natural ecosystems and how we can interact with them in sustainable ways') will most certainly NOT be developed by 'outdoors' consisting of concrete playground patches with metal climbing frames. When some children today think tomatoes grow underground we need to prioritise access to nature in all Educational settings.

It is arguable if this "Environmental Stewardship" is actually a skill. It makes more sense to think of it as a mindset, a worldview. You can't teach it in a lesson or two. People who are able to understand the “fragility and finiteness of our ecosystem” (to quote the WEF, just for fun), should understand it from within, not pursue Sustainability purely in the interest of corporate profit or because saying so fits neatly into their CV. What if we had a world where people are kind and have empathy? Whose worldview is defined by a deep understanding of interconnectedness and humility and respect for everything living? How different would this world be?

Children, regardless of what WEF says, will struggle to develop into those beings in the current standard Education model where Nature is treated as an ‘add on’, something to fit in, something separate from us, and something that eats into ‘valuable learning time’.

We will not survive as humankind unless we change the way we think about ourselves and our place in the world. And a very good place to start, I believe, is for Education to prioritize Nature.

The fact that the children of today may not get a chance to utilize these skills as we all cook here is a topic for another blog post...

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My new book Tractor Worries introduces children to mindful breathing for self-regulation and demonstrates the power of creative problem-solving. It is available to buy here. Written by my own human hand (NO AI!) and with utmost respect for the child reader.



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