As teachers, we are always looking to develop programs that cater for every individual’s learning needs and that address the skills that students will need in their futures. This will never change. What does change, however, are the needs, opportunities and pressure points of each generation. As the world evolves, teachers too must innovate and develop an education that best suits our students’ needs; both in content and delivery.
Having introduced a number of exciting and innovative programs in the last 2 years catering to the current and future needs of Gen Z-ers, we also have our eye on the future and are in the process of researching and planning the possibilities for the next generation of Senior School students, Generation Alpha.
Generation Alpha will provide the lens through which we can look to for the next decade and beyond. They are those born between 2010 and 2024 and the children of Gen Y. They will be the largest, most culturally diverse and digitally connected generation and what they experience in their early years must be considered as we tailor an educational program for them.
Generation Alpha enter their schooling years with extensive technological skills. They have a heightened sense of consumerism and brand awareness and actively participate in decision making both in online environments and within their family home. They have more of a voice than the generations before them and are eager to use it. So, in planning their educational journey, we need to consider how these students will learn best and what they need to thrive.
We begin our discussions by not only recognising the skills that they bring but also those that need development.
Interpersonal skills are key successful futures and how we view these skills overtime must be reviewed. Communication and collaboration are specifically taught in our Agile Learning program but for Generation Alpha, they must lead to how to effectively co-create. Working cooperatively and effectively with others towards a common goal is essential but learning how to create with another person is where we need to go next.
While students in past generations were participants in their own educational journey, our current programs are designed to include choice, allowing students to provide significant input in the direction of their program. This already puts us ahead of the game but now we need to look to the future and how to incorporate more student voice, allowing them to act as co-creators on their educational journey.
Our Generation Alpha students are used to voicing their opinion but we must teach them how to think critically and provide effective feedback so that they can effect change. We must also teach them how to receive feedback and resilience. These are essential skills for all generations.
We have made progress in this area already as Agile Learning provides us the time to teach the skills required for the changing generations. Looking toward 2030 and beyond, our focus is firmly on how to prepare our students for jobs that do not yet exist. There will be many more opportunities, in a variety of fields, for young people who are willing to continuously learn, think critically, and give and receive feedback, those who understand that they cannot just be employable but that they must be adaptable and even entrepreneurial in the future.
One of the areas that Generation Alpha students will need to develop is effective leadership. As their generation moves into adulthood, the societal and economic challenges they face may be more uncertain. We know our students feel empowered as they have been given a voice from an early age, so we need to teach them how to empower others when in leadership roles. This is done both within our curriculum and through extra-curricular opportunities.
Over time, what effective leadership looks like will continue to evolve from ‘empowerers’ to ‘enlargers’ and it is our role to ensure students have the opportunity to develop and practice these skills to be effective and empathetic leaders.
Taking the needs of each generation into account, we continue to design flexible programs so that our students can move into the world with the skills needed to embrace their future. Generational awareness combined with our knowledge of the individual strengths of our students will allow our programs to evolve further.
Mrs Fiona Wines
Head of Senior School, Deputy Principal at Toorak College