How can well-designed qualifications equip students for a changing world?

by Tom Galvin, Recognition Manager, Oxford University Press

As the world keeps changing, so do the skills needed by students to thrive in the workplace. What types of changes can we expect in the years ahead, and how can well-designed qualification programmes equip students for future success?

We stand on the edge of a work revolution. As the digitalisation of our world continues – what the World Economic Forum has termed the Fourth Industrial Revolution – various technologies, both established and developing, are blending together to change the way we work.

The gains in efficiency and productivity will be significant. Yet the workforce will need to adapt to a world that is constantly and rapidly changing.

A World Economic Forum report, ‘The Future of Jobs’ (2018), emphasises that whilst skills in technology design and programming will be increasingly in demand, ‘proficiency in new technologies is only one part of the 2022 skills equation’.

‘Human’ skills and emotional intelligence will be vital in ensuring that the power of these new technologies is fully harnessed. The report specifies that as Fourth Industrial Revolution kicks in, skills such as creativity, initiative, resilience, originality and problem-solving will be more valued in the workplace than ever before.

Since this report was released the world’s workforce has had to adapt at a lightning pace, responding to the challenges of lockdowns and dramatic changes to market supply and demand. The call for independent, creative, critical thinking has never been more pertinent.

Oxford AQA builds these human skills into its qualifications, encouraging their development alongside future-focused subject matter.

Its student-led, project-based international qualifications, at both GCSE and A-level, ask students to critically engage with a topic of their choice through independent research and analysis. This challenges students to draw conclusions from their own reasoning.

Well-respected by universities due to the invaluable skills they foster, OxfordAQA’s project qualifications enable students to learn how to:

  • plan a project
  • build on primary and secondary resources
  • analyse data
  • structure critical arguments, and
  • develop presentation skills – a key skill that is invaluable for professional communication.

The inter-disciplinary experience of project-based learning PBL prepares students more readily for a working environment made up of blended technologies and expertise.

The World Economic Forum explains that technological advances will drive in a new industrial revolution across the globe. However, ‘in order to harness the transformative potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution … a comprehensive workforce strategy [must be] ready to meet the challenges of this new era’. 

OxfordAQA agrees. That is why it applies relevant, practical contexts to all its curricula. Oxford AQA specifications are relevant, international, and culturally appropriate, covering the skills the 21st century demands of our young people.

The goal is to develop comprehensive, relevant subject knowledge, alongside the human attributes students will need, wherever the future takes them.

Find out more about OxfordAQA’s international GCSEs, A-levels and project-based qualifications at