An opportunity for change
Professor Sugata Mitra
Our Victorian education system
- An office - everyone would have their own desk, usually in rows and columns, facing the front. It was very important to be able to write neatly and legibly. You would do a piece of work, and then hand it in to the supervisor at the front of the office. It's easy to see how a classroom prepares children for this.
- A production line - people needed to be able to follow instructions to the letter, do the same task over and over again and get it right every time. There is no time to stop and chat, ask questions, make suggestions, etc. You have to do as you're told and definitely not attempt to do anything creative!
- The armed services - obedience is very important. Everybody does the same drills, works together to achieve the goal, and the person in charge is to be revered. Again, nobody should question the person in charge or attempt any form of creativity.
The modern workplace
- Flexible working is the norm - everyone starts and finishes at different times of the day. Some work completely from home; others work in the office all the time. Many do a combination of this. The flexible work patterns are agreed with a line manager and although they are usually checked occasionally, employees have a responsibility to put in the hours.
- Breaks and holidays have to be arranged so that there is always cover. If someone's wife is due to give birth and another person is going on holiday in the same week, others might have their request for leave denied. Outside of education, it is very unusual for everyone to take breaks and/or holiday at the same time.
- Team work is important. It is recognised that we all bring different skills to the party, so one piece of work may be completed by several people. The ability to organise and co-ordinate workflow is very important. In the team, jobs are not given out randomly or to make it fair. It is about maximising the skills that each person has.
- Knowing information is less important than being able to quickly find out and learn something. The ability to use the Internet for research, picking out the relevant information from all the junk, is far more important than being an expert in one subject.
- Staying in one career for life is less common than ever before. Most of us change jobs regularly but make several complete career changes in our working lifetime, so it is important to have a set of generic work skills.
- The ability to sell yourself to an employer is important. Gone are the days of sticking a 'hiring' poster in the window and the first person to walk in gets the job. Getting a job takes all kinds of different skills and the ability to create a CV and a professional online profile that stands out, can make the difference between getting a good job or not.