British employers are divided on the purpose of education, with 32 percent believing it is to create efficient workers for the future, and 68 percent believing it is to develop children into well-rounded human beings, according to a new report. The YouGov poll, conducted on behalf of ACS International Schools and IBSCA, surveyed British Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and was supplemented by qualitative research undertaken with leading global companies and organisations, including Amazon, Pepsi Lipton, and the Royal College of Arts. The research found that when recruiting, SMEs place greater value on personal and professional skills such as problem-solving, communication, critical thinking, and reflection than on subject-specific knowledge, with only a quarter of respondents rating subject knowledge as very important.
Robert Harrison, Director of Education and Integrated Technology at ACS International Schools, said the lack of consensus from the business community about what they are looking for from potential employees is indicative of the challenging and volatile job market that young people will be entering. The survey evidence shows that personal skills are highly desirable for employers, which is one of the reasons ACS International Schools offers the International Baccalaureate (IB), as its core competencies are deeply embedded into the IB’s approaches to learning. IB learners at ACS International Schools benefit from a broad-ranging curriculum that encourages independent thinking across a variety of subject areas, including maths, literature, languages, and the arts. The IB values academic excellence and promotes life skills such as communication and problem-solving, which are all highly desirable skills for employers.
Solene Adler, Global Senior Insights Manager at Pepsi Lipton, said that when she sees the International Baccalaureate on a CV, it is almost a shortcut that tells her the person is internationally-minded and has gone through a rigorous programme, is open-minded, and flexible in the way they think. Views on the purpose of education vary from industry to industry, with traditionally client or customer-facing industries such as medical and health services, real estate, marketing, sales, and media, placing significant importance on education developing students into well-rounded human beings (75 percent report this as important or very important). In contrast, only 58 percent of organisations operating in more internal-facing industries such as transportation and distribution, finance, and accounting report the same level of importance.
Stuart Jackson, Director of Global Workplace Communications for Amazon, said that businesses are built on people and education needs to create well-rounded, decent human beings because that’s what makes a great worker, colleague, and ultimately, a great business. For that reason, personal skills for a school leaver are key. If a person has good interpersonal skills, they are 50 percent of the way there because everything else can be learned while in the role.
The YouGov research also asked SME decision-makers about the skill set they most desire in future employees. Eighty-eight percent of SME decision-makers cite communication, 78 percent say inquiring mind, 76 percent critical thinking, 72 percent open-mindedness, 64 percent principled, and 63 percent empathy. The skills least valued by SME decision-makers when recruiting entry-level roles are risk-taking (22 percent) and entrepreneurship (34 percent).
Ramiro Prudencio, Global Director of Communications at McKinsey & Co, said that team-building, management skills, and collaboration are top priorities for young people to acquire in preparation for the unknown future, adding that the ability to read, analyse, and integrate different types of information, and draw meaningful conclusions which allow for deeper understanding, is also important.
Through IB programmes, ACS students are empowered to take ownership of their own learning. The curriculum provides knowledge in key subject areas and puts emphasis on ensuring that knowledge is contextualised, applied, and communicated for real-world scenarios. Through the IB’s service-learning programme, ACS students are also given opportunities to engage in community service projects, which enable them to develop a sense of empathy and responsibility towards their communities.These programmes not only contribute to their personal growth but also prepare them to become active and and responsible global citizens who are equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to make a positive impact in the world.