Soft Skills and Enterprise Skills

Within one to two weeks, systems, schools and communities across the country will engage with the media frenzy of examination results and ATARs.

Excellent HSC results (in New South Wales) are promoted by many as indicators of success and they often form part of a school or system’s marketing campaign. One of Catholic education’s leading data analysts, Dr John DeCourcy, continually reminds us that test scores are in fact, lagging indicators of success. We keep reading about the need for students to develop their ‘soft skills’, their ‘enterprise skills’ or their ’21st century skills’ so they can function in, and contribute towards a changing world. However, there will be very little heard or read about these skills  when HSC results and ATARs are released in a few weeks.

Education leaders are now challenged to bring soft skills and enterprise skills to prominence because they are leading indicators of success which will assist students to function in and contribute towards a rapidly changing world, not just in the future, but today!

The good news is that within NSW syllabus documents there are outcomes which directly relate to soft skills such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationships. Furthermore, there are enterprise skills such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity found within Key Learning Area (KLA) outcomes.  I acknowledge the measurement soft skills and enterprise skills is more difficult than identifying growth of literacy and numeracy or exam results. However, if we deepen parent, student and teacher understanding of how soft skills and enterprise skills develop over time, and what that looks like, together we will increasingly develop our ability to observe, reflect and critique the skills which are not easily measurable.

Although many soft skills are ‘hidden’ within a KLA outcomes approach as part of an ‘A to E’ reporting environment, the NSW syllabus documents are a great starting point. Further to this, the Australian Curriculum General Capabilities are also an excellent reference point.

Australian Curriculum General Capabilities

Given that all seven domains support the development of soft skills and enterprise skills, there are three domains which are particularly relevant. They are:

  • Information and communication technology – using technology to access information, create products and solve problems.
  • Critical and creative thinking – learning how to think and find ways to approach problems.
  • Personal and social – recognising others’ emotions, supporting diversity and working together.

These domains are expressed through learning continuums. The Critical and Creative Thinking continuum, the Personal and Social continuum and the Information and Communication Technology continuum are excellent reference points for teachers, parents and students. Given the opportunity, I know students can rise to the challenge of finding evidence to demonstrate their progress along these continuums. Maybe that’s the problem, there are not enough policy makers and education leaders who trust students to drive and understand their own learning through self assessment and reflection.

It will be a watershed moment for schools and education systems when the prominence of soft skills and enterprise skills are as mainstream as KLA assessments and public test scores. Due to the disruptive changes to our world, some of which have already arrived, the focus will change, it has to! For the sake of our students, hopefully that time will arrive sooner rather than later.

As always, your feedback and comments are more than welcome as they assist with my learning.


3 thoughts on “Soft Skills and Enterprise Skills

  1. Thanks for the post. As long as we continue to only value what we measure, rather than measure what we value, the public discourse about learning will be stuck at the point of NAPLAN, HSC and ATAR. Schools must be confident in shaping parent and community expectations around what a successful graduate looks like and find ways to measure and celebrate that.

  2. G’day mate,
    Great read and I certainly agree with you.
    To support your argument- My staff would know many of the literacy and Numeracy continuum’s inside out. Unfortunately (and I need to share the blame here) most would never have even opened the The Critical and Creative Thinking continuum, the Personal and Social continuum and the Information and Communication Technology continuum (or possibly know they exist).
    Certainly something we need to look at rectifying.
    Have a great Christmas and good luck in your new role!

  3. For me it’s largely about preparedness for the future. Neither NAPLAN or the HSC are indicators of a student’s ability to succeed in higher education or the workforce. Assessment of literacy and numeracy was important in the nineteenth century when teaching people to read and do maths was the focus in a largely illiterate society, but the focus of our development is now on soft skills and digital literacy – shouldn’t our assessment follow the same path?

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