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The Minister of Economic Affairs of Latvia, Daniels Pavļuts, asks an audience whether or not he is a failure because he was educated and trained to be a musician and yet he is not working as a musician. I remember many times discussing with students the benefits of internships or co-ops to complement their studies. One of the benefits I always shared was based on my own co-op experience with an international chemical company; that is, not only will such an educational experience help you determine what you may want to do, it also helps you decide what you do not want to do. Similarly, Pavļuts’s “probably not” (a failure) response to the question above reaches the same positive outcome through a parallel learning process. It’s all about education.

Getting to the Decision. Pavļuts details that most individuals get to this “most important investment decision” by (watch the video here):

(1) Listening to Others: Their Information; Their Experiences

(2) Predicting the Future: Use Information to Look Ahead; Extrapolate from Past Experience

(3) Listen to Yourself

However, he questions whether items 1 and 2 above are the best way to get to the decision. For example, he compares data from different Latvian economic sectors across the last few decades (from 1985) and the largest growth category is “Other” (23.4% to 44.9%) with only one other category (trade) showing continuous growth between 1985 and 2008. What is the “other”? Pavļuts reports this is “where the growth is… where the creativity is… all the services sectors… the ICTs… [all of the] techs” and the key: “It would be difficult to tell what skill sets you might need.” His conclusion is that it is not always possible to use past information to look ahead. Alternatively, six ago Pavļuts chose to take an energy policy class as part of his public administration coursework not knowing how it would fit (ever) into his work. The course was simply an elective offered in the curriculum. Now, years later energy encompasses more than half of his position.

The K-12 Connection? The Common Core Standards are student expectation goals by content and grade levels. The Standards project achievement goals “robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers” (website).

What does it mean for teachers and students? We know that with good coaching by teachers, students will move up the educational performance ladder and learn. When we help students by clearly communicating learning targets, modeling quality teaching and assessment strategies during practice sessions, our students will begin to identify their learning gaps, improve their performance, and gain a winning momentum. This feeling of success inspires students to engage in learning each day. Only one to three percent of students may decide not to perform or face extreme barriers to learning.

A teacher’s ability and willingness to coach students and associate student success with how well students learn rather than what they teach becomes extremely critical in helping students learn complex (common core) skills. More importantly, when we do this as educators students gain confidence and they shift from being teacher dependent to self-directed learners… listening to themselves and choosing education.



Pavļuts, Daniels. The Importance of Learning. Learning What Exactly? TEDxRiga available here. Pavļuts is the Minister of Economic Affairs of Latvia.

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