This essay was chosen as one of the best essays in its category in the English Essay Competition organised by LEAF Academy, an international boarding high school in Bratislava. The competition was open to all Slovak students from primary and secondary schools who are passionate about writing in the English language. The Slovak Spectator has not edited the essays as participants were awarded partly on their English-language skills.
A student from Gymnázium pri SŠ KP Na Závaží 2 in Žilina, Kasmanová chose the topic "Do our schools today adequately prepare students for the real world?". Her essay was mainly oriented on the importance of implementing "soft skills", like critical thinking and active learning into the Slovak educational system. Zuzana´s wish and hope is to "bring more awareness and attention to the aspects of education on which we can work in the future".
The main role of education is to educate individuals within society and to sufficiently prepare and qualify them for work in the country's economy. Education should provide students with fundamental skills which they should be later able to use for their professional and personal development. With the right educational background, you can increase the chances of landing a fulfilling and well-paid job, as well as grow as an individual. As Malcolm X said: “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” But there arises the question whether our educational system sufficiently prepares students for the real world, outside the four walls of classrooms, for the challenges of their future lives. My research had led me to the conclusion that it in many aspects doesn't.
First of all, we need to ask ourselves: What skills do students need to successfully navigate our diverse, complex, and rapidly changing world? Which skills, knowledge, attitude, and values are fundamental for successful and well-being in their futures? According to the prediction of the World Economic Forum, the most needed skills in the workplace in 2025 will be critical thinking and analysis, active learning, complex problem solving, creativity, leadership, resilience, technology use, stress tolerance, and flexibility. Most of these key competencies are soft skills and they are inevitable for solving unpredictable problems and they help a person to cope with fast changes in the workplace and both personal and social life. But looking at our school system, we can hardly find these skills implemented into the education of our students.
Our educational system is primarily based on the development of hard skills and memorization without focusing on the importance of soft skills, but dynamic workplaces are looking for more than book-smart employees. Soft skills are a collection of productive personality traits that characterize one's relationships in a social environment, they are also known as “people skills.” Soft skills are harder to measure but are critical to success. The most important soft skills for students to master are the ability to think critically, communication, perseverance, flexibility, dependability, responsibility, and working under pressure. They are necessary for work-life because after years of studying, in the workplace, students, now employees are expected to behave adequately toward their coworkers. The results of the study conducted by Profesia s.r.o. in 2019 clearly show that just 4 of 15 demanded qualities in employees are hard skills, and the rest is made up of soft skills.
Now we need to look at how are these skills being developed in our schools. Considering the most fundamental skill, which is critical thinking, a complex process that requires higher levels of cognitive skills in the processing of information. It is necessary for defining and analyzing problems and for making strong and persuasive arguments based on logic and evidence. As reported by a study focused on critical thinking of students conducted by the Pedagogical Institute of the University of Prešov, the development of the critical thinking is in Slovak schools still on an unsatisfactory level. Education practice and the result of students show that the dominant orientation of our school system is the memorization of a mass amount of oftentimes practically useless information, without the possibility of thinking critically. It is a consequence of the teaching manners of our teachers, where the learning is based mostly on the teacher's activity, in the worst cases, when the learning is limited just on dictation of the subject notes without active learning of the students. The negative impacts of not being able to think critically can be crucial ranging from loss of opportunities up to costly errors and repeated mistakes.