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I’m not saying that we should celebrate the pandemic, but in these times of uncertainty we must look at all the positive outcomes. One of those is the chance to review and renew our education system.
I feel fortunate to live in Denmark where our education system is one of the highest-ranked in the world, and where I have access to free education. But even Denmark has room for improvement. I think we should take the pandemic as an opportunity to improve education systems around the world.
When COVID hit, I realised just how unsure I was of the future. I knew virtually nothing of the world outside my small town, and after six months of isolation I couldn’t see much future out there.
Luckily, vaccines and months of social distancing have made it possible for us to be out and about once again. And even though COVID is in the past for most people in Denmark, it has emphasised the uncertainty of the future of work. How am I supposed to enter a workplace if I don’t know anything about the reality of working life? I don’t know what to expect from my future workplace and I don’t know what they will expect of me.
When we choose a profession, we choose a part of our identity. A lot of our self-understanding can be found in our choice of career.
Therefore, I find it important that both educators as well as employers are working to create a work environment that emphasises equality and safety. A work environment where age and experience aren’t the most important factors. As recent graduates, we should be judged by our commitment and skills—even those we have learnt by ourselves during COVID. We have had the opportunity to use websites like Masterclass to learn new skills that we can use in our professions, and even though online teaching has pressured us more than we could imagine, it has also taught us new ways of learning. Our generation is shaping the future and to exclude those skills completely would be a mistake.
Read more on the Forum Network: Micro-credentials: The new frontier of adult education and training by James Robson, Deputy Director of Centre for Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance, Oxford University
What a world we would live in if our education system taught us what to expect from a workplace environment. If we go out into the world of work unprepared, we won’t be given any responsibility because the more experienced employees will think we are unable to perform tasks that we have been schooled about for years.
Because of COVID, it’s even more important to create a safety net for us. Many people have lost their jobs, their base, and entire professions have been demolished due to the COVID crisis. The world is already chaotic and scary for a young person whose life is about to be turned upside down. Not only are we going to start a new life at work; personally, we are about to go through an amazing transition into adulthood, and in just a few years our lives will change forever. I don’t see why work couldn’t be a place where we can feel safe and are allowed to be ourselves.
If schools just let us go out in the world without any reassurance or practical experience, they are making sure that we will be disadvantaged once we enter a new workplace. Policy makers, educators and schools have a responsibility to their students to make sure that we are fully prepared when we go out into the world of work. We, the students, have a responsibility as well, but if one of us fails it will be the same result. We won’t be given any responsibilities because we’re not prepared. It will create a gap in our generation. We won’t be as represented in the group of future leaders as with other generations.
So, I ask of all employers out there to base your judgements on more than just our education. And I ask of all employers and educators to work towards making the transition from education to work less intimidating for recent graduates. And lastly, I ask of our future education system to please teach us about the real world of work. We have all been through a lot these last years. You owe us that much.
Read the OECD Policy Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19): Young people’s concerns during COVID-19: Results from risks that matter 2020
Find out more about the OECD's Youthwise 2021 members