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Opinion: Florida Schools Must Focus on Future-Readiness

If Florida is to continue growing as a national leader, its schools will need to cultivate career-ready skills of the future in artificial intelligence, digital literacy, critical thinking skills and multilingualism.

embracing the future
(TNS) — Florida transcends other states in the U.S. for its growing potential and opportunities for students and workers alike. According to Lightcast, a leader in labor statistics, last year Florida was the second most attractive state for residency. It also tops the list of U.S. states for employer talent acquisition.

As students enter the workforce, the implications are clear: Competition from both within the state and beyond is fierce.

While modern life places complex demands on graduates looking for work, having marketable leadership and career-ready skills is vital. Educational institutions need to offering students every opportunity to succeed given the intense competition of the Florida labor market.

To continue to grow as a national leader, Florida’s education leaders must focus on future-readiness — including artificial intelligence, digital literacy and multilingualism.

The Every Student Succeeds Act, signed by President Barack Obama in 2015, built on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The revised legislation required students be taught at higher standards to prepare them for college and their careers. While the legislation was important to support and uplift marginalized and at-risk students, its impact proved to be limited.

By 2020, the pandemic joined the growing list of challenges facing students, and we began to see shortcomings within current educational standards and practices. These challenges were, and continue to be, opportunities to rethink classroom approaches to most benefit students. Educational leaders must strike a balance between academic rigor and developing the skills students will need in the future.

Nurturing tomorrow’s leaders means considering the diverse options facing them, not only their path to university. Cultivating career-ready skills in young learners provides possibilities for those who may seek alternative pathways outside of higher education.

Instilling skills like time management, efficient communication and critical thinking opens doors for students to choose to pursue higher education or vocational career options after graduation.

Surveys on educator and student use of artificial intelligence (AI) underscore a simple truth: AI presents both challenges and opportunities.

How we, as educators, prepare students to meet those challenges and opportunities is elemental to preparing them for the future. As the benefits of AI come into focus, we find this technology can give students formative feedback on their work and ideas to support their learning. It can also promote development of the important analytical and critical thinking skills needed to succeed in their professional careers.

Education should encourage the ethical and practical use of AI. Through innovative professional learning opportunities, educators can give students the digital literacy they need in an increasingly digital world.

Encouraging multilingualism, critical thinking skills and cross-cultural engagement is vital for a globalized world. It seems unwise at best, and detrimental at worst, not to promote language learning among students at a young age. Florida, a microcosm of cultures and languages, is a place where future-ready students can flourish.

To be future-ready, students need access to a holistic approach to their education that prepares them to face challenges with confidence and resilience. Research by the LEGO Foundation, among others, demonstrates how students can benefit greatly from curricula with academic rigor, balanced by play-based learning in the early years and inquiry-based learning throughout their educational journey.

Engaging in inquiry-based learning helps students take ownership of their education and cultivate critical thinking skills to navigate future challenges. Looking beyond the classroom to community outreach allows learners to build a sense of personal and social responsibility. By applying their learning in real world situations and working collaboratively, young learners develop their identities and self-confidence, helping them emerge as a new generation of empathetic leaders.

All of these elements throughout K-12 education provide young learners with skills that make them future-ready. Critical thinkers, cross-cultural communicators and compassionate leaders knowledgeable on how to navigate new technologies will succeed no matter where their futures take them across Florida and its many industries.

Those are the skills we try to instill in the International Baccalaureate program. A 2020 study on employability skills in the IB Diploma Programme and Career-related Programme curricula showed that the key competencies of future employability are well represented. Those programs are available at many Florida schools, including private and public schools in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

There’s no way to predict what Florida will look like when today’s young learners are tomorrow’s economic leaders.

Providing all of Florida’s students with an education that emphasizes future-readiness ensures they will achieve success and continue to shine light on the Sunshine State.

Jonathan Bradley is development manager at the International Baccalaureate Organization.

©2024 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.