Education and Generation Y

If there was one thing that was made clear to my generation at school it was that the teacher was in charge.  Not only did they remind us of that when it came to discipline, but the whole structure of the learning experience was designed to reinforce that fact. They were the “experts”. Our role was to sit, listen and learn. The ability to understand, memorise and apply was all that was required to succeed.

Fast forward forty years and school is a very different place. In most cases a more relaxed, relational feel exists between teacher and student. There is not the same fear of authority among young people and respect accorded the teacher must be earned rather than expected by right as a result of position.

But a greater change has occurred that goes far beyond relationship. It is a change in the process of learning. With society changing so quickly our education system is no longer one that simply teaches young people all they need to know in life.  Yes, there are still core subjects to be learnt, but these aside the focus is increasingly on teaching young people how to learn. This occurs not only because most information needed can be quickly Googled, but because learning is something that continues on throughout their whole lives as knowledge continues to grow.

This need to teach young people how to learn has been changing the role of the teacher. Instead of being the conduit of knowledge dissemination they are increasingly the facilitator of knowledge gathering. This changes education from being “teacher centred” to “student centred” where the young people interact and collaborate in the process of discovering truth for themselves whilst being guided by the teacher.

These changes in education affect the mindset of the Generation Y as they enter the workforce. A manager who simply tells them what to do and then expects blind obedience soon becomes frustrated because they have a suspicion of dogma and a more subjective view of what is “best practice”. Rather than listen and apply they have a tendency to want to question and challenge while seeking to discover better answers . Furthermore they expect the work environment to be something like their best classroom: one in which there is interaction, collaboration and even fun!

This new mindset presents a challenge, yet at the same time it also presents a wonderful opportunity. Managers who are able to create such an environment will attract and create employees who are eager to keep discovering, excel at contributing original ideas and enjoy the dynamics of being part of a team.

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