Podcast: Problems Passing on the Torch
12 October 2021
Classic education institutions can certainly teach the necessary skills for tomorrow’s workforce, but they are not the only ones available and will need to adapt to the current needs of their students to stay relevant.
There was an adage from Bulgaria, more commonly heard during the communist regime, which effectively translates to, “Go study, so you don’t have to work.”
The contemporary world has shifted so dramatically over the past several decades due to technological advances, shifts in society and political leadership, financial crises and, of course, now a pandemic. Nevertheless, many of the classic issues which have concerned us for time immemorial still persist, and one such is certainly employment.
There have been standard ideas of how to find and keep employment, but the question facing us now is does education still secure jobs?
What seems like a simple, straightforward question has several caveats in today’s world.
First, the problem with the word ‘secure’ is that – especially during a pandemic – nothing is absolutely secure. Fareed Zakaria in Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World emphasised that no matter what tools you implement in an economy, it is not possible to create one that is open, dynamic and secure. In reality, you can only accomplish two; if it is open and dynamic, it cannot be secure.
The second issue relates to how views on traditional employment have changed. The classic nine-to-five is a shrinking occurrence, except perhaps in government institutions in Central Europe.
Today, it is more reflective to talk about projects, gigs or engagements. Moreover, many managers still believe the best way to learn is on the job, through mistakes and challenges one encounters in real-life experiences. Yes, this certainly is a form of education but not the conventional understanding.
Following this line of thought, Thomas Friedman – in an article for the New York Times – hypothesised a future model of employment will probably resemble work, learn, work, learn, and so forth. Similarly, the next generation can look forward to a professional life in several different fields requiring near-constant retraining and which will certainly be dynamic but hardly secure.
There are numerous elements that one could highlight in order to measure the value of an education; here we will enumerate a few.
The personal relationships between instructors and students is of extreme value. It can broaden and challenge one’s understanding of the world and inspire long-term goals as well as empathy for fellow students and citizens which can be extended to neighbouring and far-flung nations.
Importantly, it should not be forgotten that a school is a community. We often tend to ignore and disregard this fact, but we are underutilising the community aspect of our educational institutions, especially in Central Europe. Adopting some of the practices and philosophies of the Steiner or Waldorf institutions could refocus the concept of education on to the holistic development of students.
Teleologically, we can also consider finding a vocational path as a component of an education’s value, but prescriptive instruction and direction will lead to a dissatisfied populace. Here, general guidance or encouragement would be of greater benefit.
Regardless of the above qualifications, there are certain skills the next generation would do well to hone: build resilience, be able to manage uncertainties, stay – at least partially – flexible, foster your creativity and learn how to reimagine yourself and to deal with transitions.
Developing these personal traits along with a solid work ethic will smooth over the processes we are all likely to encounter with greater regularity in the coming years and decades.
This is a summary of a discussion with Botond Feledy (Manager, European Leadership Programme), Pavlo Sheremeta (Founder, Kyiv Mohyla Business School) and Louisa Slavkova (Executive Director, Sofia Platform) at the New Europe 100 Forum on 27-28 October 2020, edited by Galan Dall, Editor-at-Large of Visegrad Insight. Find out more about the upcoming New Europe 100 Forum, future activities and our partners here. For updates, follow @NewEurope100.
The article is part of a project supported by the International Visegrad Fund.
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