Education… preparing young people for a changing world?

My friends at Union Street Media Arts posted yesterday about “Working with Strangers”.

Reading their post made me think about how good – or otherwise – a job we, as a society, really do of preparing our young people to survive in the world of work that we live in today. I did well in school (no, honestly I did) and I certainly don’t feel that getting good grades did much to prepare me for what I’m doing now.

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to hear a gentleman called John May deliver a talk on just this topic to the World Scout Education Congress in Hong Kong. It features a well-known YouTube sensation, and you can watch it below. The whole talk is an hour long, so I’ve set it to start at the part that I’m interested in. The audio is not brilliant throughout the whole talk, so you might like to download the transcript from

I’ve reproduced the section about “My Friend Matt” here:

Meet my friend Matt. Video-game software designer and world traveller. A true Millennial individual. What sort of a world are he, his generation and the generation we’re currently educating going to inhabit?

It’s one where he’s had to pick up the pieces left him by a generation, our generation, that has failed him. Where higher education has once again become something for the elite, as soaring university fees have made it inaccessible to most.

It’s one where more than 1.5 million people in the UK are claiming unemployment benefits, where posts for trainee solicitors are down by 95%; where John Lewis has 250 people chasing each of its graduate jobs

Meet my friend Matt. He lives in a world where, in India and China, there are millions of young people entering the job market. Where there are more gifted and talented students in those two countries than the total number of students in the UK.

It’s a world where China will soon have the most English speakers in the world.

It’s a world where the idea of a job for life is one that’s only read about on history websites. Matt expects to have between 10 and 14 jobs in his career. (Already in the UK, more than half of us are working in a company we’ve not been in for more than 5 years)

Meet my friend Matt. He doesn’t know what jobs he’s going to do in his life. He can’t. Already, the top 10 in-demand jobs in this year’s graduate recruitment survey, didn’t exist in 2004… We are preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that have not yet been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.

You, I and Matt live in a country that 100 years ago had the largest armed force in the world, was the centre of global business and finance, had the strongest education system on the planet, was the centre of innovation and invention, controlled a currency that was the world’s standard of value and had the highest standard of living. It ain’t like that now.

Matt’s generation has always wanted to do well at school. 98% of British twelve-year-olds say that they want to, but only just over a third of them actually look forward to going to school.

Meet my friend Matt. He expects technology to continue to transform his life. Even now, a new blog is being created every single second; He’s on Facebook, of course – along with 500 million others, of which half log on every day. He has the average number of Facebook friends – 130.

Matt also has his own web page. And he expects to do business from it (or something like it) for the rest of his life.

Matt uses the internet in the way that we were taught to use books. His first port of call is Google… always.

Meet my friend Matt. He does not expect to know everything. He expects to know where to find the answers to his questions, but not to need to remember the answer for longer than the moment that it is important.

He has just learned (and will soon forget) that 40 exabytes of unique new information will be generated worldwide this year. That is more than in the previous 5,000 years. Matt knows that we live in exponential times. That the amount of new technical information is doubling every 72 hours.

He has just finished his degree. But for students starting a 3 year university degree, this means that half of what they learn in their first year of study may be outdated by the end of their course.

Meet my friend Matt. The new generation And the person we have to help find his way in the world.

Hopefully, that made you think. It certainly did me, and it’s a big part of the reason why I believe so passionately in ensuring that the public services that are on offer to young people in the world today do a better job, a far better job, than ever before of preparing them for the challenges that they face in life.

That doesn’t only mean a better education – and by better I mean better suited to the world that we live in, and the future that they will live in – it also means better healthcare, improved transport, technology, communications, support for changing careers and a whole panoply of other things that matter so, so much.

Maybe you believe that too. If you do, then there are plenty of things that you can do to help. From volunteering with forward thinking organisations (in fairness to John, I should mention the Scouts, very dear to John’s heart and my own) through to lobbying your councillor or MP for better funding for education or young people’s mental health services, to name just two areas in need of support.


One thought on “Education… preparing young people for a changing world?

  1. Thanks for quoting me, Mat. Loads still to do to equip young people properly for life – and the quicker people realise that what goes on in the classroom is only half the story, the better education will become.

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