Computer literacy, people skills, knowing how to balance a budget, awareness of contemporary issues and the ability to speak at least one language other than English. These are just a few of the skills students in the 21st century need to be successful.
So said several speakers at an event hosted by the Lucia Mar Unified School District as it kicked off efforts to develop a strategic plan — including a mission, values and vision — that will guide the South County district for the next five to 10 years.
“We want our students to thrive and flourish,” district Superintendent Jim Hogeboom said during a community forum Tuesday at the Clark Center in Arroyo Grande. “We have to prepare them for the future. We need a vision to guide and give direction.”
More than 400 people listened to local college presidents and business leaders share what they believe students need to be successful in today’s fast-paced environment.
“In today’s world, if we’re not willing to take chances … we’re going to be stuck in the water,” said Gil Stork, superintendent/president of Cuesta College.
He named a few academic skills that students need — speaking, writing, reading, arithmetic and computer skills. But the “soft skills,” such as responsibility, a willingness to try new things and set attainable goals, are also what will help students succeed professionally.
Students should also be able to speak a language other than English, said José Ortiz, superintendent/president of Allan Hancock College.
In today’s global society, with more workers heading overseas and more companies doing business worldwide, “we can no longer be a monolingual society,” he said. As the skills students need to be successful evolve, so will the teaching strategies to facilitate that success.
Teachers can no longer be the “sage on the stage,” Cal Poly President Warren Baker said. Instead, they must be the “guide on the side,” working with technologies at hand to support students’ learning.
“Today, there is a sense of agreement among faculty that what students stepping into the world need is a good dose of learn by doing,” he said, echoing his university’s philosophy emphasizing practical experience.
Keith Lovgren, manager of work force development for Pacific Gas and Electric Co., stressed the need for mastery of science, technology, math and other core subjects, as well as the life skills such as critical thinking, customer service, teamwork and accountability.
“I think this is a different type of student we’re facing,” added Bernie Trilling, global director for the Oracle Education Foundation, a nonprofit foundation funded by computer software firm Oracle, which supports educational institutions, schools and other nonprofits that provide education services to the public.
Lucia Mar district officials will take a wide range of comments and develop a mission for the district’s 17 schools and adult education program, which the school board aims to adopt in June, Hogeboom said. Then, next year, the board will be tasked with figuring out how to put its vision to work.
“The purpose of 21st century schools is to get kids excited about what they’re doing, working in groups and on meaningful work, and using technology to create and innovate,” Hogeboom said Wednesday. “We need input to tell us that we’re on the right track.”