We are becoming increasingly aware that the world in which the young generation will start their adult life will differ a hugely from the world as we know it today.
Many rapid social, technological and economic changes are taking place. Different kinds of national and international think tanks, knowledge institutes and research agencies are pointing out that we have to prepare the new generation in time for their largely unknown future.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has high-lighted the importance of what is called ‘the 21st Century skills’, for the social and economic future of the new generation. The World Economic Forum is even talking about 10 soft skills essential to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The urgent need to pay attention to these so called 21st Century or “soft skills” in education is also recognized by international educational researchers. They see them as advanced skills which need to be included in the school programmes and activities. Not as a substitute for what they call the more basic cognitive skills, but as an additional enrichment for the future orientated development of children. Together they are part of the training for active citizenship.
The most frequently mentioned soft skills are problem solving, creativity, cooperation with others and ICT competence. Empathy is mentioned as the social skill most needed to become competent to act as responsible and active citizens.
It is necessary that independent schools, which in many European countries are suffering from a lack of sufficient governmental support, as is the case in Italy, be faithful to their entrepreneurial and innovative nature, remaining keenly focused on the added value they represent and can offer to their parents and students.
The educational proposal of independent schools is value based through the inspiring philosophy of freedom of parental school choice and of a stimulating vision of school autonomy and school community.
For these schools attention to soft skills is very important and a key challenge because they are strongly tied to their core values of forming a steady and value rooted character for each individual student. In spite of governmental denial of the contribution of the Italian independent schools to the Italian society and economy, the independent schools feel themselves fully engaged in their serious attempts to promote soft and social skills through their school programmes.
During their stay in Rome representatives from independent schools’ associations from more than 20 European countries (from in and outside the EU) will share their knowledge and experience of the ongoing implementation of soft skills in independent schools all over Europe. But what is most important, they are also eager to compare their views with those of their Italian colleagues by visiting Italian schools during the second day of the conference.
By holding – in cooperation with the Italian association of independent schools CdO/FOE – the 29th annual conference in Rome, -ECNAIS aims to strengthen the position of the Italian independent schools. We encourage them to continue their innovative role in Italian education. We believe that the attention to soft skills by the Italian independent schools’ sector demonstrate evidence of how autonomy is able to promote an education system matching students’ human and cultural needs.