Prepare pupils for the world of the future, heads told

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Pupils of today must be prepared for the world of tomorrow, Rohit Talwar says

Pupils should be prepared for a world that could see them taking up 40 different jobs before reaching the age of 100, a futurologist has said.

They may earn a living from sharing-economy apps Uber and Airbnb rather than through a traditional career, Rohit Talwar, from Fast Future, said.

Mr Talwar presented his findings at the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) annual conference.

HMC said it was ready to take part in a debate about the "nature of education".

The group, which represents leading fee-paying schools, is meeting for its conference in St Andrews, Fife.

Future skills

Mr Talwar, chief executive of Fast Future Research, which advises companies and governments on how to prepare for the long term, said it was crucial to think about what skills would be needed in the future.

He cited studies suggesting between 30% and 80% of all the jobs that exist currently will disappear in the next 10 to 20 years, as businesses increasingly invest in automation.

"On the one hand, we'll be living longer. On the other hand, we're not sure how people are going to earn the money to buy the goods and services that will largely be produced by smart software and robots," he said.

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How might the playgrounds of the future compare with today's?

"The challenge we have is that nowhere around the world is anyone really trying to do some joined-up thinking about what would that look like in the future.

"Will it be right to assume that everyone will still have a job? Or will it be natural for 50% of the population to not be working?

"We need to start thinking about those things, we need to start thinking about the kinds of skills we'll need to help people stay employable.

"If they do have a job all the way through their career, that means they'll be working potentially up to the age of 100."

They "might well have 40 jobs in that period in 10 different careers", he added.


Mr Talwar, who advises companies what the world might look like in five to 50 years, said the pupils of today could go on to have a "portfolio career".

"You might be driving Uber part of the day, renting out your spare bedroom on Airbnb a little bit, renting out space in your closet as storage for Amazon, doing delivery for Amazon or housing the drone that does delivery for Amazon," he said.

"There are all these sort of new sharing-economy models coming through, but I'm not sure if you're a lawyer today, that's a very attractive option to move into for the future.

"Everywhere around the world policymakers are behind the game in understanding how fast the world is changing, and they're not changing the education or social system anywhere near as quickly."

Mr Talwar said he was encouraging head teachers to ask pupils to give a view of what they think the world could look like in the future.

"What do they see as the potential scenarios for 2020-25? That could look very different to the education system today," he said.

HMC general secretary William Richardson said: "HMC schools welcome the challenge laid down by Rohit Talwar and stand ready and willing to contribute to a debate about the fundamental nature of the education our pupils receive in the future.

"Innovation and independence is in our blood and this, combined with harnessing the power of young people to conceive new ideas, will help us find exciting new ways of teaching and learning."

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