Cultivating ‘Vital Learn’: The Imperative of Nurturing Soft Skills from Elementary School

June 9, 2023
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Key Takeaways:

  • Elementary school education is an opportune period to begin teaching vital leadership skills and soft skills.
  • Nurturing non-cognitive skills such as cooperation, creativity, motivation, and interpersonal skills can significantly impact a child’s future personal and professional trajectory.
  • Groundbreaking research has underscored the substantial societal benefits of implementing social skills programs in elementary schools.
  • These programs can lead to increased employment rates, decreased crime rates, and substantial economic benefits.
  • These non-cognitive skills directly translate into successful entrepreneurial and business careers later in life, demonstrating the relevance of ‘vital learn’ at an early age.

Introduction: The Necessity of ‘Vital Learn’ in Early Childhood

The transformative power of education is undisputed. However, an often overlooked element of education is the importance of non-cognitive skills – the soft skills that are crucial for developing effective leaders. The foundation of these skills is best laid during the elementary school years, making it an opportune period to begin this ‘vital learn.’ Understanding and nurturing these skills can pave the way for a successful professional trajectory and cultivate a future generation of leaders.

Unraveling the Significance of Soft Skills

Leadership in the 21st century often draws upon a specific set of non-cognitive skills, including cooperation, motivation, creativity, and interpersonal communication. For instance, the remarkable turnaround of Best Buy under the leadership of former CEO Hubert Joly is a testament to the power of these soft skills. Joly put well-being, collaboration, and purpose above profits, displaying the transformative power of non-cognitive capabilities.

The irony lies in the fact that these foundational skills, crucial for successful leadership, are often overlooked in early education. Even in higher academic institutions, these soft skills take a backseat, more so in elementary institutions. However, the idea that it’s never too early to start learning these essential skills is gaining ground, and a growing body of research supports this proposition.

The Power of Early Social Skills Education: The Montreal Longitudinal Experimental Study

In the 1980s, a team of six researchers embarked on a groundbreaking experiment in Canada, called the Montreal Longitudinal Experimental Study (MLES). The study aimed to evaluate the impact of integrating social skills into school programs for young children. The results were unequivocal and startling, highlighting the significant life-changing potential of non-cognitive skills.

The Experiment

The experiment involved 250 young boys from challenging neighborhoods in Montreal, Canada. Half of these boys, aged 7-9, received weekly coaching in social skills such as self-control and societal interaction for two years. In contrast, the other half served as a control group, receiving no specific intervention.

The Results

The results were unambiguous. The program reduced yearly social support by almost 40 percent and cut rates of social dependency and criminality significantly. It increased positive outcomes like employment, education, charitable donations, and even the likelihood of marriage. From an economic perspective, for every $1 CAD invested in the two-year skills training program at age 7, $11 CAD in benefits were reaped by age 39.

Implications for Leadership

These results demonstrate the profound link between elementary school know-how and leadership qualities. Non-cognitive skills instilled at a young age cultivate an environment of mutual trust, fostering a less vertical hierarchy and encouraging employees to engage, innovate, and align with their companies’ values.

Non-Cognitive Skills: Preparing for a Brave New World

In an era characterized by increasing digitalization, there are still numerous roles that require high-level social skills, such as management or negotiation. These are roles that cannot be replaced by artificial intelligence or computers. A 2017 McKinsey report suggests that up to 14% of the global workforce will need to transition into other occupational categories due to increasing automation. Furthermore, the World Economic Forum estimates that by the end of the 2020s, 65% of children currently in primary school will work in jobs that don’t exist today.

Transitioning to this brave new world will necessitate social, creative, and emotional skills that only non-cognitive education at a young age can adequately provide. Personal social aptitudes remain at the core of commerce, cooperation, and human interconnectedness. Our education systems must evolve to foster these skills in our children from an early age, equipping them with the resilience needed for the rapidly changing world of work.

Inculcating Leadership Qualities through ‘Vital Learn’

Leadership is not a concept reserved exclusively for the world of work; it begins as early as childhood. The seeds of leadership qualities such as cooperation, perseverance, and responsibility can be sown during the early years of education. Learning to deal with failure and developing self-confidence as a child can enhance future managerial abilities and contribute to a shared feeling of wellbeing at work.

For instance, developing self-confidence at a young age can help children accept failure as part of their learning process. This quality is particularly crucial in the world of entrepreneurship and business, where setbacks are common, and resilience is a vital attribute. By cultivating this mindset from an early age, individuals can grow into leaders who can foster a positive work environment, which can subsequently lead to increased productivity and economic growth.

From Elementary School to the Workplace: A Seamless Transition

The narrative surrounding ‘vital learn’ isn’t just about preparing students for their future roles as business leaders; it’s about equipping them with the tools to navigate their personal lives effectively. Nurturing these non-cognitive skills can lead to increased emotional intelligence, improved decision-making abilities, and a greater understanding of self and others.

This perspective represents a seismic shift in education, from a model focused solely on academic achievement to a holistic model that prepares students for the complexities of the real world. By incorporating soft skills into the curriculum from an early age, we can ensure a seamless transition from elementary school to the workplace.

Conclusion: A Call to Action

The importance of ‘vital learn’ during elementary schooling cannot be overemphasized. Not only does it prepare children for their future careers, but it also equips them with the necessary skills to navigate the complexities of life. The benefits are significant, and the impact is transformative, not just for the individual, but for society as a whole.

Investing in non-cognitive education at a young age is an investment in the future, fostering a generation of leaders equipped with the soft skills necessary for success in an ever-changing world. As our society continues to evolve and adapt to new realities, it’s crucial that our approach to education evolves as well.

Let us not underestimate the power of ‘vital learn’ – the skills and attributes that may not be measured by traditional academic standards but are integral to personal growth and professional success. By nurturing these skills in our children from a young age, we are investing in their future and, by extension, the future of our society. Let’s put ‘vital learn’ at the heart of elementary education – our children deserve nothing less.

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