Children Will Need These Skills in the Future


Sep 24, 2017


By the time a child entering primary school today turns 9 years old, 42% of the core skills needed to keep India’s economy thriving across all industries will be different. By the time they are old enough to work, the remaining 58% of the current skills needed for success may have changed into attributes we can’t even imagine yet; after all, more than half of these children will ultimately end up working in jobs that have not existed before. The same rapid advances in automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence that will change the future workforce are challenging schools and parents to adapt in order to prepare children for their place in it.

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While the skills below – predicted by the WEF as the most valued skills for workers in 2020 – may be out of date by the time this child is an adult, they at least show where the world is heading: away from reading, writing and arithmetic, and towards ideation, evaluation and decision, coordination, and continuous education in order to accomplish a goal, deliver a service or design a product.

Skills children will need in the future


  • Complex Problem Solving
  • Creativity
  • Cognitive Flexibility

Complex problem solving is the ability to consider a complicated problem from every angle, identify all of the different things that make it problematic, and develop a solution that addresses all of them. That solution could range from a lawyer’s argument to a businesswoman’s growth strategy to an educator’s plan to expand access to schooling – goals that are simple to state, but are complicated by the amount and diversity of the people, entities, laws and resources involved. Problem solving is aided by creativity, of course, but also by cognitive flexibility, which is the ability to think about multiple concepts at the same time – to consider all of the moving pieces of a problem.

As parents and educators, we can help students develop complex problem-solving skills by giving them opportunities to practice creating solutions to these real-world problems under our guidance. Ask kids – what would you do to fix X, or Y? to convince someone of A, or B? This will encourage students to use knowledge and concepts from different disciplines to create practical solutions that work in their real lives.


  • Critical Thinking
  • Judgement and Decision Making

In the not-too-distant future, machines will perform tasks like computation, data analysis, and logic. These are tasks that they are better suited to perform. This means machines will be able to present options – but, at the end of the day, you want a person to consider the human cost/benefit of a solution. To do so, tomorrow’s adults will need to be able to think clearly and rationally, reflectively and independently, in order to arrive at quality judgments and decisions.

Children learn this in environments that allow them to interpret and analyze information, make inferences, and develop explanations based on those inferences. Students who are good critical thinkers raise vital questions, think logically and communicate effectively.


  • People Management
  • Coordinating with Others
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Service Orientation
  • Negotiation

New work models, such as freelancing and remote work, are growing. Learning to be agile and adaptable, and to work with remote and diverse teams around the world, is the future of work. Human functions such as the ability to relate with empathy and compassion and the ability to anticipate, recognize and meet others’ (often conflicting) needs will become highly valued. And since these skills are not only essential for professional relationships, but are also vital in personal relationships with friends and family, why shouldn’t we invest in developing these skills?

Continuous education

All of the above skills feed into the skill of lifelong learning. As adults, children today will need to continually update their skill sets to keep up with rapidly evolving technology. As I noted, the above skills are the projected needs of 2020 and beyond; children today will live and work long after that date, and the demands of their careers will be continuous and dynamic over a lifetime. This fundamentally changes traditional routes to success; getting a college degree in a single discipline will not be enough, as individuals will have to develop and apply expertise in multiple disciplines in order to solve the future’s complex problems. Internships, certificate programs, skill ‘bootcamps,’ online courses and more will become the norm in our children’s future work lives.

While schools around the world (though few in India) are slowly developing curricula to build the above skills, parents are no less critical. Students spend most of their time at home, where they acquire the important life attitudes and skills they observe in their parents. But parents can do more than model. Setting up a ‘maker space’ at home gives children a chance to practice their problem-solving and creativity skills. Giving children opportunities to learn and play together inculcates the cooperation skills described above. And asking them open-ended questions prompts children to exercise the independent thinking they’ll need to succeed as adults.

In this age of exponential growth, we need to equip our children with the knowledge, skills and capabilities that will help them solve the problems of the future. Parents are at the heart of their children’s ability to be ready for this world.



Written By Shabbi Luthra

Shabbi Luthra, PhD, is the founder & CEO of Consilience, a non-profit company that support schools and organizations to create systems, practices and tools for innovation in an accelerating change environment. She has worked for over three decades in various teaching and leadership roles in the field of Educational Technology in international schools. Her expertise includes envisioning, deploying, and providing guidance in the areas of technology integration programs, staff development, building technology leadership at all levels of a school, and planning and managing change and transitions in schools. She has led research in 1-to-1 learning programs and along with Dr. Damian Bebell started the International Research Collaborative, a consortium of international schools researching their laptop programs. She has served as Director of Research and Development at the American School of Bombay and has led educators to study, design, prototype, and research new designs of schooling and sustainable innovation for relevant learning. She is leading the use of data to inform learning in schools through the design of learning analytics and data visualizations. One of Shabbi’s graduate degrees is an M.Ed (Curriculum & Instruction) from the University of Houston. She also holds a doctorate from Boston University in the area of Educational Media and Technology. She also teaches graduate courses on technology integration and 21st century teaching and learning at Boston University.


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