Taking a break from writing reports this week I sat and watched the children at lunch time playing outside my window. One of our Teaching Assistants had a small group of children and was showing them how to play cricket. She showed them how to hold the bat and they each had three attempts to hit the ball before she encouraged them to hand the bat to the next person. It was a pleasure to watch as the children showed not only perseverance but also collaboration skills.
What does it mean to collaborate with somebody? The world is already collaborating. From hackathons to crowdsourcing, people across the world are pooling resources and sharing ideas every day. Collaboration is supporting business owners, entrepreneurs and innovators to thrive, but can it help children? Why should we aim for children to develop collaboration as a life skill?
Globalization is bringing people from all corners of the planet closer together and our societies are becoming more and more vibrant. From a young age children interact with each other and adults who come from many walks of life. Children today have the ‘whole world at their fingertips’, and they need to know what to do with it. Through collaboration they can increase their understanding of how others view the world. They can develop new and more invigorating perspectives and learn to appreciate differences of opinions.
Employers and higher education institutes today are in search of candidates with unique ideas and soft skills. The skills in demand include communication, negotiation, teamwork, interpersonal skills, social skills and cultural competence. Moreover, individuals with leadership qualities who are willing to help others but also know when to ask for help are highly valued. These skills cannot be developed by one person working alone. They require collaboration and interacting with people around to achieve common goals. Therefore, by learning to work together from a young age children can get a head-start in achieving their education and career aspirations.
At its best, collaboration in the classroom can help children think more deeply and creatively about a subject and develop more empathy for the perspectives of others. The ability to collaborate with others has become one of the most sought-after skills in both education and the workplace. A survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that more than 80 percent of midsize or larger employers look for collaboration skills in new appointments - but fewer than 40 percent of them considered new graduates were well prepared to work in teams.
I have been fortunate to watch an array of drama performances and sporting events over the past two weeks. What has struck me is the incredible collaboration that has existed between the children. The way they have supported, learnt from and managed one another has been wonderful. And of course, it has led to success.