Life Beyond School for the 21st Century Student

C21st Students

C21st Students’ Life Beyond School

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In what ways and to what extent does the Diploma Programme core prepare students for their life beyond school in the C21st?

Compared to 20th century education, 21st century students are born into a rapidly developing era. They grow up with advanced technology and a global connection where schools and parents are constantly offering them the opportunity travel whilst creating a truly borderless learning experience. There are twelve abilities that students need to succeed in their careers during this Information age. These twelve abilities are classified into three categories which are: learning skills, literacy skills and life skills. The IB diploma programme is unique, and these skills are perfectly applied and run through coherently within the two-year DP courses. They are intended to help students keep up with the lightning-pace of today’s modern markets. This article is going to focus on the ways that DP core prepares students for life beyond school in the 21st century.

As articulated in (IOB, 2014) students taking the DP are prepared in various aspects such as: intellectually, physically, ethically and emotionally. As such, they are prepared to face the constantly evolving world. Apart from teaching the students about various cultures, the programme helps in honing their skills in tackling university education and employment. As a requirement, DP students have to learn at least two languages and be able to interact with people of those cultures and societies due to the ever-expanding global network. Consequently, they are able to work and study in places of different culture, fit in and even thrive.

In the IB’s 2014 Review of Research, results found IB programmes to have a positive impact on student preparedness for college, career and civic life (IOB, 2014). The DP course is designed to prepare high school students for success at university and life beyond. They address the intellectual, social, emotional and physical well-being of students. IB DP helps prepare students for success by creating college and career-ready global citizens by encouraging students to think independently and drive their own learning – thereby becoming more culturally aware, through the development of a second language and able to engage with people in a globalized, rapidly changing world.

IB graduates are more likely to persist through college and demonstrate strong critical thinking skills than non-DP students (IBO, 2014). The research shows that the DP students are less reliant on family for academic support and are more academically independent in group work activities (IBO, 2014c). Compared to non-DP students, DP students show an intricate understanding in the structure of knowledge, large concepts and how content connects across disciplines. In group discussions, the DP students are able to evaluate multiple perspectives on the same issues, and are more flexible with their perspectives. One of the reasons for their amenability is due to their exposure through the TOK course.

TOK trains students as thoughtful and purposeful investigators into different ways of knowing, and into different kinds of knowledge. The TOK prompts students to be aware of themselves as thinkers and encourage them to become more acquainted with the complexity of knowledge. The TOK course has also developed students’ critical thinking skills, which teach students how to think about the concepts of knowledge itself rather than just teaching students about particular facts or concepts. At the beginning of the TOK course, students are provided with the opportunity to: reflect on what shapes their perspective as a knower, where their values come from, how they make sense of and navigate the world around them. It is important for students to not only accept answers, but to also be acquiescent with the fact that may situations may require them to make decisions without possessing absolute certainly. DP students are required to study five areas of knowledge to complete their TOK assessments. These areas of knowledge are structures within which much human knowledge is organized. By exploring the different areas of knowledge, students deepen their understanding of the characteristics of each area. Students are also encouraged to make comparisons and connections across their areas of knowledge. In addition to this, an extended essay also provides a good opportunity for students to form their knowledge structure. They need to investigate a topic of their personal interest, which relates to one of the student’s six DP subjects, or take the interdisciplinary approach of a World Studies extended essay (IBO, 2020). Students should be able to develop the capacity to analyse, synthesize and evaluate knowledge after they done the 4000-word extend essay.

IB DP students have a better preparation for college-level coursework than other non-DP students. There are some university researches which point out that the DP extended essay prepares IB graduates to be successful in higher education research. As compared to Advanced Placement (AP) students, IB students are significantly more likely to indicate that they felt very prepared for college-level coursework involving: high-level research and writing skills as well as intellectual discovery and creativity. The extended essay also provides practical preparation for undergraduate research. During the research process, students need to formulate an appropriate research question, engaging in a personal exploration of the topic. They also need to consult on ideas with supervisors, reflect on insights gained from the supervisors and then evaluate decisions made while responding to challenges encountered during the research.

According to the 21st century ideal skillset, DP students have achieved all the learning skills which may include: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication through the TOK and extended essay. Students are required to primarily develop these skills because they might require them in the future. For instance, critical thinking is universal in the 21st century and is key for career success. It improves students’ language and presentation skills to best express themselves, and help them make better decisions since they can think independently. Secondly, students are made to develop literacy skills such as student research while reconstructing the information to depict its relevance, trustworthiness and technological-involvement behind it.

IB graduates demonstrate civic knowledge and skills, as well as a sense of civic responsibility. In previous research done, it was found that the DP students demonstrated academic civic-mindedness, which implies that IB students believed that they should engage in service activities to help the community. The CAS (creativity, activity and services) requirement in tandem with personal development and efficacy drove them to make a difference in the world. Both students and CAS coordinators believed that the purpose of CAS was to help students develop skills beyond the academic domain.

CAS helped develop students’ creativity skills to scrutinize and stretch ideas, hence producing an authentic and innovative product or performance. Activity is the physical exertion contribution to a healthy lifestyle, while service is collaborative and reciprocated community engagement in response to an authentic need (IOB, 2017). CAS enables students to develop essential skills of collaboration and communication, while boosting their confidence to take on challenges. Therefore, CAS helps students to enhance their personal and interpersonal skills by learning through real-life experience. In other words, students are able to discover their own identities by undertaking purposeful projects.

By participating in CAS, students have acquired self-motivation and self-drive that is essential in tackling real-life problems in future endeavors. They are able to learn how to be good leaders and lead a team while taking part in research activities. Research shows that most students avoid participation in civic activities, but through the CAS, students realized the importance of service to the community. Civic skills proved to be an essential part of communal bonding and development. Those students who developed a predisposition to willingly participate in civic activities, found themselves in a better position at surviving among diverse communities. Subsequently, the study didn’t prove to be 100% efficient in the results acquired.

CAS provides good opportunity for students to practice their life skills in the 21st century, which include: flexibility, leadership, initiative productivity and social skills. As we know, communication is an important part in people’s daily life, and it is deeply entwined with the real human existence. Effective communication skills help students to express themselves and make a close interaction with the whole community.

Analysis of after-school life for C21st students

The nature of life in the C21st is unlike anything else previously experienced. The information and technological age has taken over every aspect of living to the point that it is utterly unimaginable to envision it differently. Our sole reliance for survival and progress is through technology which has its own advantages as well as faults. C21st students suffer the brunt of limitless expectations with limited opportunity in a changing world that expects them to adapt or even articulate genius yet there is total disarray in the entire system. Lobo (2016, p. 14) asserts that, C21st learning only prepares students for careers and not public education. The professional and career-related skills honed into them during their school days, are realized to be obsolete and of no consequence. The result of this, is a mentality unstable young society that is under a lot of pressure to be the driving force for development of a greater future. After-school life is deemed to be one of the greatest fears among those who are just about to graduate from schools and go into the employment world where they realise that their knowledge and skill is ‘useless’. With respect to this, we are going to critically analyse the challenges, fears and prospects of ‘life beyond school’ for C21st students.

Challenges of after-school life for students in the C21st

There are numerous challenges that students in the C21st undergo as appertaining to life after school. Some of them may include: obsolete technological knowledge, lack of relevant hands-on skills, societal pressure to succeed, limited opportunity as well as a partisan employment system. We shall discuss a few in this section.

Obsolete technological knowledge

Third world countries are struggling with the need to impact the new generation with technological skills to enable them drive their economies forward. This being the case, students are taken through rigorous technological training courses but are made to study old technology that is of no profit to them in their future areas of work. Subsequently, C21st graduates go into the field with little or no knowledge placing them at a disadvantage of having to learn foreign skills and concepts which draws their countries back economically.

A partisan employment system

Despite the world being a global village where opportunity is available for everyone, the systems in place only benefit those with connections or influence. Good positions at places of work are preserved for those who come from powerful families. As a result, some workers are subjugated to work in fields they were not trained in, but go on to work in order to make a living. Such factors discourage C21st students.

Fears of the life beyond school for C21st students

Most students come to terms with the reality that they will be completing their courses of study on the onset of their final year of study. In the haze of pressure and euphoria about the fact that they will be done with their rigorous school programmes, comes the realization that there are many challenges that are ahead of them as new adults. They will be entitled to themselves, their own welfare, bills and well-being. Nobody will be there to question or support them since they need to find a footing in a space that will accept and accommodate them within the society. Such is the realization that fosters panic, fear, doubt and discomfort. It is important to analyse and inspect these very fears and how they influence their thoughts, actions and perceptions in tandem with aspirations for a better future.

Unemployment

It is commonplace to hear cases of brilliant students who graduated from school claiming that they have never been employed yet they scored the highest grades in their classes. Such frustration by these cases may instill fear in C21st students, giving them the perception that education is pointless in this day and age. The results of this fear may include poor morale in students and unwillingness to learn.

Prospects of ‘life beyond school for C21st students

In as much as the future is unassured for C21st students, they benefit from the thriving technology and information sector. El-Koumy (2019, p. 40) asserts that, information is rapidly increasing due to the improvement of technology and increased information sources. It is said that ‘information is power’ and these students are at liberty to explore the opportunities that come with the easy accessibility of the same. The age of the internet came and enabled the quick supply of information to any part of the world simply with a few clicks on a computer. Consequently, it is easier for recent graduates to access information on job opportunities at the comfort of their homes, than it was for graduates of the previous century. Businesses operate online and companies ensure that they have a footing in the online space in order to reach their target audience. Research has shown that the average graduate of the C21st is in a better position to get a job online or start a business through online connections. It is therefore, advantageous to be a C21st graduate in that respect.

Employers have shifted their operations to the online space in the recent years. The development of mobile apps like LinkedIn and various job websites that connect professionals all around the globe has revolutionized the hiring process. Hiring managers are able to pick the best suited candidates for the job, interview them online and even hire them to work remotely. As seen in the recent year plagued by the COVID-19 pandemic, most students were forced to graduate online and even seek jobs to work remotely in order to adhere to government directives and measure to curb the growth of new infection numbers all around the world. Despite the fact that, the C21st students’ after-school life is marred by great uncertainty, there remains a glimmer of hope for them, all factors considered.

Conclusion

C21st students may face numerous challenges in their transition from being students, to a working population. In as much as this may be unfortunate for them, there is a chance for them to become outliers in the future generations. According to El-Koumy (2019, p. 244), inter-group relations and acceptance of diversity prepares students for employment. The life skills learnt from the school programmes and various interactions with fellow students and dons should enable them to prosper in any environment they find themselves.

References

El-Koumy, A. S. (2019). A Multifaceted Framework for EFL Curriculum Development to Prepare Students for Building a 21st Century Egypt. A Multifaceted Framework for EFL Curriculum Development to Prepare Students for Building a 21st Century Egypt, Modern Academy for University Books, Giza, Egypt.

Hill, I. & Saxton, S. (2014). The International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme: An International Gateway to Higher Education and beyond. Higher Learning Research Communications. 4(3). 42-52.

IBO. (2014). IB Diploma Programme: A strong predictor of success in university. Retrieved from: http://www.ohioib.org/StudentPerfBrochure1_9.pdf

IBO. (2014). New Studies Explore IB Students’ Preparedness for success in the 21st Century. Retrieved from: https://www.ibo.org/news/news-list/in-the-ibs-2014-review-of-research-results-find-ib-programmes-to-have-a-positive-impact-on-student-preparedness-for-college-career-and-civic-life/

IBO. (2014c). Research Summary- International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme: Examining college readiness. Retrieved from: https://www.ibo.org/globalassets/publications/ib-research/dp/collegereadinesssummaryeng.pdf

Lobo, D. (2016). 21st Century Competencies and ICT Integration in the Classroom: Preparing Students for Careers in the Current and Future Employment Market.

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