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Five Future-Ready Skills I Teach My Children

Melvyn Tan
Melvyn Tan
4 min read
Five Future-Ready Skills I Teach My Children

I’ve worked with schools in Singapore for more than a decade. During this time, I’ve learned a great deal about the skills children need. No, it’s not arithmetic, reading, and writing. I’m talking future-ready skills.

What does future-ready means

The world I know now is very different from the one I knew when I was growing up. As a child, I remember watching television both as a form of entertainment, as well as for education. If you’d told me that in the future, I would be able to broadcast my own shows to anyone who cares to watch, I’d probably scream and run away from you. Because I’d think you are so weird.

But it isn’t so weird anymore. Right now, you could put up a video and broadcast it to the world. Anyone could record an audio and put it in the cloud. Anyone could write an article and publish it for anyone to read.

The platforms are available. You have YouTube, Soundcloud, WordPress. Question is: do you have the skills to create and/or produce content to be published on those platforms? Yes, you do need talent as well, but that’s for another time.

My responsibility as a parent

I do not want to rely or depend on the teachers to impart future-ready skills to my children. For two reasons. Firstly, they are my children. So they are my responsibility. Secondly, frankly not all teachers are future-ready themselves. So how can they teach my children those skills?

As an entrepreneur and design thinking practitioner, I am in a better position to impart those skills to my children. Besides, would you learn about entrepreneurship from someone who has been an employee? Crazy right?

The 5 future-ready skills

#1: Observe

The first skills is observation skills. One key skill all entrepreneurs have is the ability to observe. To observe is different from being able to see. My five-year old may see the speed limit on the highway is 65 miles an hour, but he observed that speed limits on the freeway are different from the highway.

The Bible says:

they may be ever seeing but never perceiving

An educator once challenged me. He said, observation skills are not important. Being curious is. I both agree and disagree (I’m a trained economist by the way. Hence it is always on one hand [this] and on the other hand [that]).

Give me a one-handed Economist
~Harry Truman

I agree that being curious is important. I disagree because in order to be curious about something, you need to first be able to observe.

#2: Question

While it is important to be observant, to question that observation is also important. I observe that most of the time when there is a man and a woman in the car, it is usually the man who is doing the driving. But I never question that.

I’d later learn it is not because the man is a better driver. Although as a man, I want to believe that’s the case. But the truth is because the woman is better at giving instructions.

So, while I want my children to observe, I also want them to question what they saw. Of course, at this point, I rarely have to prompt them to ask questions. Sometimes I wish they’d stop asking just so my head wouldn’t hurt so bad.

However, I encourage them to ask questions that challenge the assumptions. For instance, instead of asking “why are the speed limit different on the highway than on a freeway”, I encourage them to ask “instead of speed limits, why not set a minimum speed”?

#3: Research

Now, we are getting a little more technical. Most children will have no problems with observation skills and the ability to question. However, children need to be taught how to proceed to the next step.

I teach my children how to conduct research. Research is just a fanciful way of saying data collection. For example, once when we were at Walnut Canyon, my son observed and asked “why doesn’t the snow melts even when there’s sun”. He’s asking because when we were in Rovaniemi, we only had like 4 hours of sunlight.

So instead of explaining to him, I actually don’t know why too, here’s what I did. I told him that he should collect data to find out why. For me, when I observe that people are asking questions about homeschooling on Facebook, I would want to collect data (or conduct research) to see if there’s enough people asking questions about homeschooling. Because if there’s sufficient demand on the topic, then maybe it is worthwhile recording a video on that topic and also writing about it.

#4: Analysis

Closely related to research skills is the ability to analyze. I’ve seen people collect hordes of data but don’t know what to do with it. Worse, they conduct surveys, collected the data, showed the data to their bosses, and then shelved it.

Analysis is simply the ability to spot patterns. Here’s where I’d observe (see, I eat my own dog food), my son will spot the similarities, whereas my daughter will spot the differences.

Both are right. Because they each have their own worldview despite being from the same parents.

#5: Creativity

For this skill, it is more of my kids teaching me rather than the other way around. Children have no problem being creative. It is the adults that kill it.

So, the title for this post should have really been: 4 skills I teach my children and 1 skill they teach me.

But seriously, creative thinking needs to be facilitated. Being able to come up with wild ideas is good. But being able to execute on those wild ideas is even better. But that’s for another time.

What skills do you teach your children

What about you? What skills are you teaching your children?

Melvyn Tan

Despite living the good life at midlife, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. My aim here is to reinvent midlife, learn new skills, and understand how the world works post-COVID.