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Fit for the future

23 April 2020

Female student raises hand in School classroom

Wales’ forthcoming curriculum for compulsory age schooling, critical in supporting tomorrow’s citizens and workers in a world shaped by climate emergency and advances in technology, automation and artificial intelligence, was the focus of the latest in Cardiff Business School’s Breakfast Briefing Series.

Woman speaks to camera from home
Wales' Future Generations Commissioner delivers welcome and introduces co-created research on Wales' forthcoming curriculum.

Professor Calvin Jones, Deputy Dean for Public Value and External Relations at Cardiff Business School, got proceedings underway by sharing a short introductory video from Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe.

Ms Howe explained that she and Professor Jones had been working together over the last year to consider what kind of education system was needed in Wales to equip young people with skills and civic orientation for the future.

She said: “We know that artificial intelligence and automation is already taking a lot of jobs in Wales and this will have an impact on the types of skills that our young people will need in their careers…”

“It’s very unlikely that we’ll ever be able to overtake the learning of machines, and therefore some of the most important things will be to equip our young people with emotional intelligence, empathy, creativity and skills in problem-solving and co-operation.”

Sophie Howe Future Generations Commissioner for Wales

Professor Jones followed the Commissioner’s introduction by focusing on some of the challenges facing education provision in Wales and the world.

Climate, technology, demographics

He outlined the immediacy of our climate emergency and how the model employed in the Higher Education sector – one characterised by international travel of students and staff en masse – must change significantly in order to make meaningful reductions in CO2 emissions.

Next, Professor Jones discussed some of the findings of the Digital Maturity Survey conducted by the Welsh Economic Research Unit at Cardiff Business School. Linking its findings of digital disengagement and rural/urban divides in Wales, he stressed the importance of addressing these challenges through equipping both people and businesses with relevant education and skills.

He said: “We can’t afford for the next generation of business owners across Wales to be in a position where they are lagging behind other parts of the UK and the world in their response to technology.”

In support of this, Professor Jones shared data from his working paper relating to the impact of automation on white-collar jobs particularly in retail and in our cities, with the growth and impact of UK Internet sales, but also across service sectors including insurance, law and accountancy.

Man delivers presentation virtually from home
Professor Calvin Jones delivers School's first virtual breakfast briefing from home.

He rounded up his discussion of grand challenges by commenting on demographic changes.

Commenting on how people are living much longer physically and economically active lives, Professor Jones said: “The idea of a single career, or of stopping education at the ages of 16, 18, 21 or even 26 after a PhD, is old news. We will need to be responding constantly to waves of technology, environmental and ecological change, demographic and migratory shifts, in order to make sure our skills are up to date.

“So, continual learning across an entire lifetime is really important if we want to remain in a position where we provide our people with productive and rewarding work.”

Wales’ road map

For the remainder of his presentation, Professor Jones turned to the new curriculum for Wales.

He drew an immediate comparison between its aims and those of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, which Professor Jones described as the nation’s road map, its guide book, towards developing an economy which is more inclusive, responsive and flexible.

However, he explained that one of the major shortcomings of delivering the new curriculum is underfunding.

“The impact of austerity has been really stark on the per pupil level of expenditure in Wales’ Schools. Expecting teachers to implement a very radical, forward-looking, and completely new way of teaching in Schools where we have this huge shortfall of money is really problematic. And we shouldn’t forget that going forward.”

Professor Calvin Jones Professor of Economics

Underfunding is compounded by further limitations in the delivery of ICT, literacy and numeracy skills as well as standardised modes assessment.

To conclude, Professor Jones argued that the delivery of the new curriculum is not possible in the current situation without:

  • Rebuilding teaching as a true learning profession.
  • Children’s learning becoming the concern of more organisations in Wales.
  • Holistic, cross-curriculum teaching beyond areas of learning and experience.
  • New professionals in our schools: caregivers, placemakers and eco-warriors.
  • A Welsh Education tax or levy.

Following his presentation, Professor Jones fielded questions on the impact of COVID-19, standardised assessment, increased taxes, utilitarianism and competition, before bringing the briefing to a close.

Cardiff Business School's Breakfast Briefing Series is a network of events which enables business contacts to find out more about the latest research and key developments from industrial partners.

Following lockdown measures, implemented by Welsh Government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the School’s Executive Education Team has moved the series online.

If you were unable to attend, watch this recording of the event.

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