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How is Generation Z shifting education from knowledge to problem-solving?

Published Date: 26 April 2021

The world is changing at a speed that humans have never seen before. From technological advances to the climate crisis, the world as we see it today is very different from 30 years ago let alone from 50 or 60 years ago.

At the heart of education is getting young people ready and knowledgeable to work in the world, in whatever field they choose. According to the World Economic Forum, their The Future of Jobs report revealed the top 3 skills top skills needed in 2020 are:

  1. Complex problem solving (was 1 in 2015)

  2. Critical thinking (was 4th in 2015 and coordinating with others was 2nd)

  3. Creativity (was 10th in 2015 and people management was 3rd)

Six years later, the VISION project has found the same results. As the world changes at record speed, why is education not keeping up with the needs and wants of the current generations?

What is the future of CIE (creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship) in our education systems? This is the guiding question of the VISION project, a consortium in which SIX is part of looking at the future of education. It is interesting to see how educators are responding to the new demands/expectations from Gen Z. At SIX, we spoke to social innovators working in education on their thoughts about how classrooms are not only needing to change but are already adapting to the change the students and young people require. 

Generation Z, who make up 26% of the global population which equals about 2 billion people, has pushed education to new limits. They are a generation that no longer requires an authority figure to be the knowledge-barer when there is a whole universe of information online and easily accessible. As digital natives, their ability to access information means they no longer need to be told but would rather know-how. 

Thomas Ravenscroft from Skills Builder, UK spoke about this saying, “At the moment, everything in the education system is working towards getting the correct answer and you know what the marking scheme looks like and you make sure you get all of the ticks in the different boxes. I could see this as the biggest challenge at the moment is how do you teach innovation and creativity and entrepreneurship in an education system. Other parts of the world are trying to be more open-minded about moving away from this direction.” 

Teresa Franqueira from the University of Aveiro in Portugal makes a similar point: “I think there are some fields, more traditional ones like linguistics and maths that are very traditional, and in those ones they really need a shake, they need to teach in a different way.”

What are some of the things happening already?

States of Change look at how people learn best and how to make people learn in the world we live in today. "Whether it's partnering with companies or kind of setting up more project-based learning, you see this even in primary schools in Denmark. You have classes setting up their own shops to do something socially relevant as part of the curriculum.” Jesper Christiansen, Co-founder of States of Change.

Times are changing. Industries are changing. Technology is changing. But for some reason the way we go about teaching isn’t at a quick enough pace: "At the teaching level, there needs to be a scholarly change where the idea that students aren’t just there to take on knowledge but are part of the knowledge chain. Then there is some thinking to be done around the linear system of education and how that doesn’t work for everyone. Some people will need educating and learning at different times but as a society, we don’t really allow for that." Liz Shutt, University Of Lincoln, UK. We are seeing the effect of this as Gen Zers are now becoming of age to work and participate in adult life. Companies are now paying to upskill workers whilst home learning and hobbies are becoming more important than education. 

With the constant changes happening in the world and the unsettling feeling of continual turbulence in society, those born in Gen Z aren’t content with stopping educating at 16 but are continuously learning whether that’s through the mobile computing device in their hands, through upskilling in employment or in hobbies.


The VISION project purpose is of spreading and encouraging creative learning through improving teaching. The project focuses on how creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship skills are taught and can be taught better and to more people. VISION project is funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union.