The recent review of education in New Zealand has raised some very important questions. What skills really are necessary in today’s world? Are we assessing the right things?

Over and over, it had been shown that so called ‘soft skills’ are far more valuable in the workplace than any qualification. These soft skills include things like communication, teamwork, and problem solving – skills needed for any good employee, no matter the job. Because of this, many are arguing that if soft skills really are that much more important than facts and figures, then they are what we should be assessing students on. But I question this logic.

Just because soft skills are important, does not mean we need to assess them. Today we seem to have an obsession with standardisation – taking something that we deem important, and turning it into a measurable scale so we can see where everyone fits on it. Soft skills are a crucial part of life, yes – but that doesn’t necessarily mean students need to be measured on them.

How would they be measured anyway? By what metric? The whole point of soft skills is that they are not concrete but highly complex. It’s relatively easy to assess whether a student can do math problems correctly. But how could you measure how well they can create and maintain relationships? Make decisions? Solve problems? Soft skills also look different for everybody. In real life, a team works because of the unique individuals in it who each play a different role. A standardised measurement of ‘teamwork’ wouldn’t accurately reflect this, nor would standard metrics for ‘communication’ or ‘decision making’.

In conclusion, soft skills truly are important – but more assessment is not the way to promote them.

Kate is a Year 12 student from Canterbury. She enjoys music, languages, sunny days, and a good book.

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