Educating for Tomorrow

Educating for Tomorrow

According to Udo Gollub (CEO of 17 Minute Languages) young lawyers  in the US are struggling to find work. Using IBM’s Watson, one can now get legal advice within seconds. What’s more, such advice has been found to be 90% accurate compared to 70% accuracy when served by humans.

Being a practicing lawyer myself, this one struck a chord with me.

I recall my days as a junior lawyer at a top tier commercial law firm, poring through volumes and volumes of documents in preparation for a patent infringement trial. And now, in less than a decade, a computer can do the task better than I can.

My parents have taken great pride in me becoming a lawyer. However, if I was to educate my son to become one too, would I really be setting him up for success?

What we see today is traditional industries and professions being constantly disrupted. Who would have thought that the taxi industry would be brought to its knees by a mobile app?

It’s impossible to predict what the world will be like when today’s children finish school and make their way in life. But what we can say with a high degree of confidence is that uncertainty and rapid rates of change are going to be the new norm.

At Fitra Community School (FCS), we are firm believers in educating our children in ways that will allow them to lead fulfilling lives in the type of world that they are inheriting. So it is more about the skills and competencies they acquire rather than the information that they can retain. For information there’s always Google!

Amongst the core skills and competencies that we will focus on developing in our students are:

  • Agency and in particular the ability to self-direct one’s learning. Agency is the ability to make choices and take an active role in one’s life path, rather than solely being the product of one’s circumstances. In the education context it is essentially taking charge of one’s learning. When things are in a constant state of flux, we suspect we’ll need to learn new things all the time in order to stay current. This may prove a little difficult to do if you are spoon-fed information and never learn the art of learning for yourself.
  • The ability to think creatively and solve problems. Whilst a computer may be far superior in crunching and analysing data, the human mind will always have the edge in being able to think outside the box as they say.
  • The ability to stay resilient in the face of adversity. Rapid rates of change means that one will constantly be challenged, at which point we will all have a choice as to whether to give-up or find a way to keep going. We want our students to be those who repeatedly choose to keep going.
  • The ability to communicate effectively. A lack of communication or ineffective communication is quite often the root cause of many problems, whereas being able to speak clearly, confidently and coherently, listen respectfully and formulate responses to advanced dialogue will give a person a head start in all facets of their life.
  • Social & Emotional Intelligence. Notwithstanding the explosion of smartphones, iPads, Facebook, Instagram and the like, believe it or not, real human to human interactions are still important! Social and emotional intelligence refers to how well individuals can understand and manage their own emotions, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.  We believe that having strong social and emotional intelligence is of paramount importance for future success of students across all areas of their lives.

So just how will we go about developing all of the above and more in our children? It clearly will NOT only be by way of direct instruction. I mean who would enjoy being lectured to about how to communicate effectively or stay resilient? Rather at FCS our children will learn by doing and by being exposed to real life situations.

Amongst the core features of our schooling program will be:

  • Camps, camps & more camps! We believe camps are a wonderful way to expose children to challenging situations so that they can develop their emotional strength and ability to adjust and deal with new experiences. Our super-organised urban lifestyles quite often deprive children of the opportunity to learn to manage themselves and assume responsibility. In contrast we see camps as providing the environment children need to grow in self-sufficiency, responsibility and problem-solving capacity. So when we say camps, we don’t mean the odd token camp here or there. Camps will be a central pillar of our students learning experience. Our students can expect to go on multiple camps a year.
  • Free Time! Stick with me on this one. I know at first it sounds almost blasphemous that a child could be sent to school and be given free time. However, let’s stop for a moment and think. Over-organising children is actually doing them more harm than good. What will they do when they are let loose on the world and there’s nobody to tell them what to do at every moment of their day? Giving children free time affords them the opportunity to dream, to invent and to interact. The world needs people who can think for themselves and organise themselves. It needs people who are able to tell what is right and what is wrong. It needs people of imagination. This will not come from over regulating a child’s life.
  • Sport! OK, I know you are probably thinking that having sports in the school program isn’t necessarily revolutionary! Agreed. However, I guess it comes down to what we are hoping to get out of participating in sporting competitions. For us, we view sport not just as a means of attaining physical confidence – but also as a real teaching aid. Competitive sport in particular is a great way for young people to learn important life lessons. Children will learn to be resilient, how to win and lose graciously, teamwork and sportsmanship and how to lead by motivating others and lifting morale. At FCS participating in sporting teams will not be optional. It will be essential!
  • School Meeting! A daily meeting of the whole school where all age groups are present. On the agenda will be a mix of listening to children’s personal news and a deeper discussion about something of note in the world. We will encourage all children to present to the whole school, thereby building their confidence to communicate. We will expect all speakers to be listened to respectfully. And we will develop our student’s ability to engage in intelligent conversation through deep discussions.

I hope you are getting the sense that FCS will not just be about the textbooks. For tomorrow can’t be learnt from a textbook.

I’m excited!

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