"...there is no greater form of preparation for change than education." Mawlana Hazar Imam, Kyrgyzstan, October 2002

The start of the academic year opened with the Aga Khan Education Board's pioneering event, 'Futureproofing your child's education,' a conference open to parents and carers of children from birth through to 18. It provided a platform for 22 leading educationalists and thought-leaders from the fields of business, education, apprenticeships, and CAMHS to provide expert advice on the different areas to consider when making choices about your child's education and making plans for their future. Dr Janjuha-Jivraj, AKEB Chairperson, described how longer life expectancies for Millennials are experiencing seismic shifts in education and working patterns as the old structure of education, work, and retirement are replaced with waves of education, work, re-education, and new career choices.

The conference placed a significant emphasis on the need for forward-planning, looking ahead ten years and not just thinking about the next couple of years, in terms of intellectual resources as well as financial arrangements. Particularly for students, it was highlighted that choosing subjects at GCSE, A-Level, or International Baccalaureate should be those that play to individual strengths, with an awareness of employment trends.

Living in the 21st century, with an everchanging climate, it is evident that children's education choices today will shape their careers and lives tomorrow. Matthew Searle, Head of Relationship Management at Henley Business School, shared vital advice on the future of work, emphasising the key trends in the world of work today are ongoing education to upskill and reskill workforce flexibility, and inclusion and diversity. Matthew raised the profile of what employers are seeking in students: resilience, confidence, and teamwork, and what skills are required for 2022. These include analytic thinking, creativity, and emotional intelligence. A growth mindset is essential for these skills; the first step is to keep questioning.  Consider asking "why" more often, to encourage debate and being open to differing viewpoints, build commercial awareness through taking part in a breadth of extra-curricular events with employers, as well building resilience through experiential learning opportunities. 

Parents were able to curate their programme for the day, and sessions provided opportunities for interaction. Among the feedback, parents felt "…more confident about making education choices to meet [their] child's needs and enhance [their] strengths."  One parent described the conference as a platform that provided "…valuable learnings from people well versed in their field - you couldn't get this from just 'Googling.'" 

The key messages for parents shared at the conference are as follows.

The International Baccalaureate (IB)

  • The IB offers international education programmes for 3-18-year-olds and aims to develop well-rounded, internationally-minded students. The underlying principle is to help students recognize their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet.
  • In the UK, the IB is primarily offered by independent schools and is offered by some state schools – click here to find locations of IB schools in the UK.
  • Universities in the UK are increasingly accepting the IB as a qualification for degree programmes, but it is advisable to check on specific programmes.

Primary and secondary school choices:

  • While a lot of information is available, the context is essential to understand what is going on. For example, exam league tables are determined more by pupils and their families than teachers and schools, although Progress 8 measures provide more transparency about the impact of schools on pupil performance.
  • Think about what is important to you and your family. Although it is difficult, try not to be swayed by what friends or others are doing. You know your child and your family well and keep that at the centre of your decisions.

Post-18 choices

  • Once students finish full-time education at the age of eighteen, they have a range of options; working, starting an apprenticeship, attending university, in some cases, students may consider taking a gap year before they embark on the next stage of studying.
  • Education will need continuous investment and careful investigations to find out about options and what suits you. Education qualification that provides maximum flexibility and the leap pad for further learning and adapting as sectors change over time.
  • Education choices are far greater today than ever before, for students who are not keen to continue with full-time education in a traditional sense, apprentices provide a route for students to blend studying and practical working to gain a degree. Apprentices are shaking off the image they have previously had with a range of Universities and blue-chip companies collaborating to offer apprentice options.

Financing for education

  • The independent sector spends £1 billion every year on scholarships and bursaries, and cover a broad cross-section of areas from academic achievements to music, sports, art, and drama.
  • Financial planning is vital, be clear on your objectives and work out whether saving or investment is right, and then determine which financial products are suitable. Take financial advice when your child is young, so you have sufficient time to build up a capital base.
  • Universities in the United Kingdom have some financial assistance, and student loans do not need to be repaid until the minimum threshold of earning is reached. Universities in North America vary considerably with costs and a wide range of competitive scholarships.

Supporting your child's education in the home and at school

  • Enhancing children's development is a life-long process for all adults, including parents, caregivers, grandparents. The focus of support to help children grow into balanced and resilient individuals, particularly where school and life can present a range of stresses. 
  • Parents and carers are important partners with schools. Teachers value parents and carers working in partnership to support children; this means getting involved and asking questions about the syllabus, asking how they can provide support at home. Don't wait until parents evening to connect, keep in touch, and build a strong working relationship.

Special educational needs, mental health, and wellbeing

  • As parents, you know your child best, trust your instinct, if you feel something isn't right get advice and ask specialists, share your concerns with teachers.
  • When dealing with mental health concerns, be alert to any changes in your child, for example, mood, behaviour, more withdrawn. It can be tricky to navigate with teenagers, but check-in parents who have teenage children and identify any trends that seem to be having an impact.
  • It can be daunting talking about help for your child, but early intervention is essential, and your children need to know they can turn to you for anything. However, worried you are your children will be even more confused and worried about their future, so reassure them and get the support to help you and your child.

Learning beyond the classroom

  • Enrichment activities allow students to develop transferable skills that are essential in the workplace – as identified by the World Economic Forum.
  • Create opportunities for children to be exposed to different opportunities and help them find the interests they enjoy.  Activities through Jamatkhana provide many opportunities for younger members to develop skills and interests through seva.

For confidential support with making choices about your child's education, contact the Aga Khan Education Board Education Advisory Service by emailing [email protected].