…it is important to start thinking in terms of the future for the sake of the children, and what happens now in our interactions with them ultimately matters. There will be an untenable environment for all of us if we continue with business as usual.

“What a gifted child is, in many ways, is a gifted learner. And what a gifted adult is, is a gifted doer. And those are quite separate domains of achievement.” – Malcolm Gladwell

Every parent would admit honestly that it’s difficult to answer all of the questions posed by their child(ren). An example of such question is: “How does the TV work?” When they ask, there are a few options that a parent has. On one hand, you can shut down the child with a response like, “I don’t know, ask your teacher.” Or you could say, “Let’s ask google and figure it out.” Another option is to explain to them as much you know.

The honest truth is that it’s not easy for parents, teachers or their guardians to respond completely to all of these questions. As an educator, I know that these questions are opportunities that are termed teachable moments and there are principles that scientists utilise in making the most of these situations.

As I state whenever I speak at conferences, workshops or outreaches on the basis of research I did when writing my book, Future Readiness In Education (2017), it is important to start thinking in terms of the future for the sake of the children, and what happens now in our interactions with them ultimately matters. There will be an untenable environment for all of us if we continue with business as usual.

I have become extremely invested in the science of learning to ensure that we boost the skills of children and educators, which are necessary for achievement in the 21st century.

Over the past two years since I wrote that book, I have had so many phone calls from parents who are worried about their children’s future. They spend lots of money for their children to have high scores in various achievement tests for college admissions. Even when their children score high points, it’s no guarantee that these children will succeed in getting great jobs or becoming successful persons later on in life.

Nothing in the present day setup of schools is different from the past: Students still sit in columns in classes, listening to the sage in front and reciting back facts to him/her like computers. The irony is that we have computers that do a better job at regurgitating information in this manner.

Getting students to be holistic successes in life means ensuring the six Cs, which have been identified as confidence, collaboration, communication, content, creative thinking, and critical thinking.

A quick run down on what these skills entail involve:

Confidence, which is the necessity for children to take safe risks.

Collaboration is centered around children learning to get along with others, which means they have to constraint their impulses. Also, learning to form groups, work with various people of different cultures. And all that occurs in the classroom or at home dwells upon that groundwork.

Communication is next, since it requires getting along with others. Communication consists of speaking, writing, reading and listening.

Content is created from communication. Without knowing how to decipher language and read, one can’t learn anything.

Creative thinking requires knowledge; lots of it. In order to create something new, it needs to be known inside out.

Critical thinking is focused around content. Without having content, there is nothing to navigate around and these days there are masses of information to go through.

There needs to be the realisation that there are no entrepreneurs or scientific visionaries who haven’t dealt with failure. This is important in raising children who will be successful.

Beyond the six Cs, there is the need to review and delve deeper into four levels of development.

Starting with critical thinking. Content has to be there already, and the thing is that there is so much information out there, which is increasing every two years now. Due to this, we have to be selective and synthesise the information that is necessary.

There are four levels of processing information: At level one, we believe what are told. If someone tells us that there are snakes in the grass in our public parks, we take their word for it.

In terms of level two, a shift begins to occur and you realise that there are multiple points of view. All along we have been told that Mungo Park discovered the River Niger, even though we had indigenous tribes already living there. This is how the foundation for critical thinking begins.

At the third level, we consider various opinions. We have used the phrase, “They say.” What we should do is read materials with facts and evidence.

At level four, we discuss evidence, deep comprehension, and the benefits of questioning everything.

It is hopeful that the holes in the understanding are exposed at this level. Critical thinking steers the way to breakthroughs in any field.

I hope we are connecting the dots through these to understand that when a child asks us a perplexing question, we will not shut them up or settle for “I don’t know”; we should encourage inquiry and research. Also encourage the children to see things from the perspective of others. Things need to be viewed from the context of the person who is dealing with it or the circumstances around the situation. This builds the skill of critical thinking.

I like for us to go beyond the walls of school, for parents to supplement what their children are doing at school by talking to them. Do we collaborate with them as parents? On what level? Do they do things on their own (level one) or with others (level two)

We should give them the freedom to make their own choices; we should talk to them, and let it be effective communication in which we listen when they also talk.

Then also ask yourselves: What do I want for my child? Where is my child now, and how can I build an environment in my house that will enable the child to grow up with these different skills?

To build confidence, give them the space to solve problems in multiple ways.

It doesn’t take anything away from the children, they learn and realise that they are creative and their confidence is boosted.

Adetola Salau, Carismalife4U@gmail.com, an advocate of STEM education, public speaker, author, and social entrepreneur, is passionate about education reform.