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Adam Ryan

What Subjects Do Our Kids Choose?

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

It is hard to know what is going to happen next week let alone what is going to happen ten years from now.

What would your friends have thought, just over 10 years ago, if you said you were going to build applications for their mobile phone, whilst driving your car for strangers and be paid without receiving cash or maybe 'crypto coins', renting out your home over the weekends... and getting news updates from the President of the "US of A", in less than 140 characters?

Transformation of what is defined as a job via the impact of web or mobile application development, Uber and other ride sharing services, Airbnb and Twitter are just a few obvious examples of industries being turned upside down... 'Disrupted'.

Traditional client server applications have all but disappeared, the Taxi Industry is under huge duress and hotels face more competition than ever. In fact in some cities such as New York and Berlin renters are finding it increasingly more difficult to find a 'home' to rent, and for journalists it is more about the speed of a story like never before, that places stress on quality journalism.

However, on the flip side, other services such as finance companies providing finance to Uber drivers, 'Home Management' & 'Cleaning Services' for home owners listed on Airbnb and the impact of Twitter and other social media on journalism are all changing what services are no longer viable and what services are. And don't even get me started on the impact 3D printing will have for manufacturing and construction.

I use these examples as known organisations and their impacts on industries, simply to draw attention to a much larger issue facing the current generation of students of 14 or 15 years of age.

At this very young age, we ask of them that they need to work out 'What' they want to do when they grow up... A choice we all had to make at various stages, I guess.

So how does a 'Career Counsellor' counsel children about career options and therefore subject choices, when complete industries may be irrelevant in ten years time and some industries which might dominate are not even thought of yet? And where does the concept of doing something you love come into the equation? Don't we want our children to be healthy and happy... follow their dreams.

Therefore, the challenge kids face today, is the selection of subjects they choose for further study, unlocking career choices for jobs and industries, we don't even know will be options ten years from now.

That's right, today we are still discussing what subjects kids need to select. Doesn't that sound a bit odd, given the rapid changing landscape of everything? (That might be a bit dramatic).

However, let me come back to that thought in a moment.

Let's assume for a moment a student who completes an undergraduate university degree after a year or two of travelling, will be 24 years old, ten years from now. That means a 14 year old, who is asked to choose subjects as foundations for their selected subjects for their High School Certification, to gain access to University Course, earning the right credentials, whatever that means, needs a crystal ball to understand what in fact a career looks like, let alone what subjects to choose.

They need to be able to predict what opportunities will arise through Artificial Intelligence, Automation, Bio Technology, Energy Creation & Storage just to highlight a few.

Discussions relating to AI and the law may totally flip what it means to be a lawyer. 'Back Office' functions such as Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable might be so irrelevant that it will be like describing the skills of typing on a Type Writer or the art of using Liquid Paper for an error; the craftsmanship of sending a faxe so that paper is fed evenly and is received perfectly at the other end... and what about the surgical precision of removing a paper jam from a photo copier. Oh the glory days!

Medical procedures might be conducted by robots, or undertaken by surgeons, in completely different geographical locations to that of patients. With the rapid reduction in manufacturing costs for energy creation and storage surely, it is simply a matter of time that our understanding of how we power the world will change. Surely!

With all that in mind, being the tip of the iceberg and coming back to my original thought about 'Subject Selection', how does a 14 year old of today choose subjects for opportunities of tomorrow?

The reality is that they can't and we need to find another way. We owe it to them to find a better way!

Instead of asking what subjects we are going to teach our kids, which has a construct and intent of teaching them content first and skills second, why can't we teach them skills first, supported by content.

Skills which are transferable, adaptable, interchangeable and valuable to whatever future they will experience. A future that will be on us and them faster than we can imagine.

Skills such as collaboration, team work, problem solving, logic, critical thinking, creativity, manners, courtesy and communication skills just to name a few. How do we teach these skills and other relevant skills as a foundation... underpinned by strong values and ethics that will guide them to be great decision makers... Arguably the greatest skill of all.


About the Author

Adam Ryan is a Professor of Practice (Adjunct Professor) at Monash University and is a principal at Watkins Bay. He has over twenty years of start-up experience in Australia and the USA. An expert in company structuring for innovation, high growth strategy and capital for early to growth stage businesses.


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Join thousands of people receving regular insights into ideas that help people and businesses grow.

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Written By

Adam Ryan

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