Rafmary Millan Reyes Baker, Director at Cambridge Business Online Centre

Rafmary Baker is an experienced educator, mentor, and the director of the award-winning educational enterprise, Cambridge Business Online Centre. She holds a joint first-class honours degree in Politics and International Relations from Royal Holloway, University of London, and a postgraduate degree in Development Studies from the University of Cambridge. As part of her venture, she delivers educational services to a diverse student population, fostering engaging learning environments that inspire growth and opportunity. Rafmary has been recognised for her leadership and community contributions, serving as a designated delegate of UN Women UK and as a vice-chair at Cambridge Community Rotary Club.


The twenty-first century is experiencing an unprecedented surge in digitisation, transforming our world so significantly that most children in school today will eventually take on jobs that have yet to be created. Interactive networks of communication now assert their pan-global presence, and this virtualisation of media represents the cutting edge of globalisation. Its unmatched power lies in its ability to collapse the traditionally insurmountable parameters of time and space into tractable microcosms, reducing the distance between here and there, now and then, arguably fact and fabrication. In his book “The World is Flat”, Thomas Friedman delves into this phenomenon, emphasising how greater immediacy and interconnectedness have minimised barriers—both physical and virtual—thus enabling seamless communication, trade, and collaboration across the globe.

This notion of a ‘flattened world’ sets the stage for what we now call the Fourth Industrial Revolution, heralding a new era of human advancement. The continual development of technology is reshaping the world of work, bringing new efficiencies, accelerated innovation, new products and services, and new potential for scale and speed—but also new challenges.

Unprepared for The Future

As the march of progress advances, countless individuals are being left behind without vital training, struggling in a rapidly evolving job market. According to a survey conducted by Amazon and Workplace Intelligence, 70% of people do not feel prepared for the future of work (Brower, 2022). This sentiment is particularly pronounced among young people, who stand at the forefront of those most affected by the shifting demands of the global labour market.

Each year, the United Kingdom suffers significant economic losses due to the disengagement of young people from education, employment, or training. Estimates indicate that NEET individuals aged 16 to 18 cost the public nearly £12 billion annually. This staggering figure primarily comprises expenses related to benefits and lost tax revenue resulting from youth unemployment (Coles et al., 2010).

Against this backdrop, sociologist Émile Durkheim likened schools to “societies in miniature,” eloquently capturing the profound role of education in shaping individuals for meaningful engagement in society. However, when these individuals encounter barriers in securing employment or accessing further education or training opportunities, they often experience feelings of disappointment and disenchantment. These emotions can lead to social detachment, pushing them to the fringes of society where their talents languish unseen, and their potential goes unrealised. The depletion of invaluable human capital not only undermines the confidence and mental well-being of young people, but also exerts a tangible impact on the vitality and economic prosperity of our nation.

Recently, Alice Dawson, a researcher at Demos, stated: “Our research shows a reckless disconnect between UK education policy and what the job market actually wants from new recruits” (Employer News, 2024). What this comment suggests is that the disparity between the skills taught in traditional education and those needed in today’s evolving job market presents a crucial challenge for our education system: adequately equipping individuals for future success.

Skills: The New Currency for Success?

In today’s educational landscape, there is a growing realisation that grades have become the goal rather than a milestone on the path of lifelong learning. This is grounded in outdated models of instruction and assessment, which favour memorisation over in-depth understanding, standardised testing over creativity, and specialisation over interdisciplinary learning. This traditional approach has overshadowed the true purpose of education: to spark curiosity, encourage critical thinking, and nurture a passion for learning beyond the confines of the classroom. In this vein, standardisation in education fails to acknowledge the diverse ways in which people learn. While some excel by conforming to the standard, others with different learning styles are left behind.

In his book “The End of Average”, Todd Rose, who himself transitioned from being a high school dropout to a Harvard professor, directly addresses these challenges. He presents a framework aimed at transforming the education system to better suit the diverse learning needs of all students, advocating for a shift from traditional diplomas to credentials, and competency-based assessments over standard grading. While this approach may be perceived as far-fetched to some, combining established and innovative educational practices is likely the key to advancing universal education in the long run.

This poses a critical question: What role can tomorrow’s skills play in shaping the opportunities for our youth today?

According to the OECD’s Future of Education and Skills: Education 2030 report, the leaders of tomorrow will require a diverse set of skills encompassing cognitive and meta-cognitive skills (such as critical thinking, creativity, learning to learn, and self-regulation), social and emotional skills (including empathy, self-efficacy, and collaboration), as well as practical and physical skills (for example, by utilising new information and communication technologies). These skills will be shaped by attitudes and values like motivation, trust, respect for diversity, and ethical behaviour.

As such, when we refer to “skill-based education”, we are acknowledging a combination of cognitive, social, emotional, and practical capabilities needed to empower individuals to shape their futures through education and employment in the twenty-first century. Skill-based education becomes not just a means of adaptation but a pathway to thriving amidst technological disruptions. To prepare for an uncertain future, we must reinvent teaching and learning, making it more personalised, adaptable, and scalable than ever before:

‘Schools can prepare them (students) for jobs that have not yet been created, for technologies that have not yet been invented, to solve problems that have not yet been anticipated […]’ (OECD, 2018).

Thriving in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, therefore, depends on our ability to improve the quality of education available to humankind. As the philosopher Seneca famously said, ‘Luck is when preparation meets opportunity’. Similarly, like a well-tended garden yielding a bountiful harvest, individuals who invest in cultivating their skills reap the rewards of greater employability, career satisfaction, and potentially, financial independence. All of which will be facilitated by the new avenues for wealth creation that applied skills in the Information Age can provide. This is the value of education tailored for the twenty-first century: to prepare anyone, anywhere, to seize the opportunities this new world order has to offer, and thus empower them to define their own paths rather than conforming to predefined roles.

Let us embrace the challenge of preparing our students not for today, but for the future they will face  — a world where the only constant is change, and where the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn is the ultimate currency for success.


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