Mark Orrow-Whiting, Nord Anglia Education’s Director of Curriculum and Innovation, shares his thoughts on Generation Z’s need to be creative, to think critically, and to understand more deeply how they learn best.
One of the most striking findings from our recent look at the skills and attitudes Gen Z needs to succeed is just how essential young adults feel it is to be creative problem solvers.
In my view, this is one of the most important skills any young professional can have in our rapidly changing world. As one Gen Z’er said, “With all the economic uncertainty, workarounds and the ability to think on your feet could be the difference between the success and failure of a business.”
And let’s face it, Gen Z are a generation who’ve had to be quick on their feet. They’re graduating into a world full of political and economic instability, not to mention the ongoing effects of the pandemic and how the world of work is also almost unrecognisable compared to just a few years ago. Many of these young adults have graduated online and have begun their careers online — or at least in some form of a hybrid model. According to the Office of National Statistics, this is true for around 25% of workers in the UK alone.
Gen Z see problem solving and creativity as one way to deal with these challenges. They’re two side of the same coin — they’re ‘thinking outside the box’ skills that can help recent grads — and current students — gain new perspectives on problems. It helps them interpret, understand, empathise and, most importantly, react.
Arguably, these skills have never been more in demand, with 1 in 2 Gen Z’ers saying problem solving is important for their personal lives. Creativity was a close runner-up behind confidence, problem-solving, and wellbeing, with 47% of respondents saying it’s vital at home.
These skills aren’t just needed in their personal lives; around a third of people who took part in our survey said these skills are as important in their careers too.
Going a bit more deeply into creativity and problem solving, one more aspect is students’ abilities to apply previous life lessons to new, and slightly different, problems and situations. Part of this is helping young people being more aware of a variety of approaches to learning and developing an understanding of which strategies work best for them in different settings. In education, this is often referred to as ‘metacognition’.
1 in 5 Gen Z’ers told us that understanding or being self-aware of 'how I learn best and why' is important for success in their careers. When students know what kind of teaching and learning best resonates with them, they become more active participants in their own education.
For us to offer a truly forward-thinking and modern education across our schools worldwide, we feel strongly about understanding the wants and needs of all young people so we can best meet their needs through what we teach.
What Gen Z has told us affirms our approach to teaching and learning — young people benefit when their education focuses on their mental and physical wellbeing, builds their confidence, injects creativity into every subject, inspires them to think critically, and broadens their horizons with a global outlook.
They — and we — see these as critical for both their personal and professional lives.