Why future jobs require a new skillset
By 2030, there will be fewer nine-to-five jobs and many students will need to create their own employment. This is why we teach entrepreneurship, leadership and innovation. Not everyone will own a startup, of course, and some of our students may go on to work in a more traditional setting, but they will all benefit from creative spirit, and the ability to solve problems and work with a team.
In 2012, at the International Baccalaureate (IB) Conference of the Americas, an author called Tony Wagner spoke on innovation and preparing students for the workplace of the future. He said that many of the world’s largest, most forward-thinking companies are steering away from hiring people with multiple degrees. Information and knowledge are no longer enough. He said that what these companies want are inquisitive people who can apply what they know, solve problems and work as a team. They want people who can communicate and connect.
Knowledge and certificates are not everything
The IB curricula, which is what we follow at Dwight School, is geared to teach these kinds of personal skills. There is a lot of emphasis in the classroom on building skills and relating what you’re studying to the real world.
We have many opportunities to integrate these personal skills into every subject. We encourage the children to think about what it is that society needs and how their ideas can benefit the community and the world. Risk-taking, reflection, creativity, problem-solving, communication – these are skills the IB promotes, and these are the attributes we want to develop.
We start with little things. For example, we ask the children to reflect. When they have the opportunity to experience and model empathy, tolerance or diversity, we ask them to think about how it makes them feel. Two people in the class may not have the same opinion about something and they may come from diverse backgrounds – you don’t have to agree with everyone but you do have to respect them.
In every subject, assessments are not necessarily tests. Through project work, the children can respond in their own way, whether that’s a PowerPoint presentation, a visual poster, a blog or an essay, which gives us an idea about the child’s best learning strategy and helps us unfold a lot of creativity.
Through community service, we also see what the children are passionate about. Sometimes it takes longer to unfold a child’s passion because not every child knows what their passion is and that’s absolutely OK because every child is unique.
Sparking innovation and unleashing the genius
From a young age, we encourage entrepreneurship and innovation by helping children to discover what they’re interested in – their passion – and then help them to explore and develop that passion.
It’s important to enable innovation in the classroom and to develop a child’s leadership and entrepreneurial skills so that they may be transferred to the outside world. At Dwight School Dubai, we have three pillars: community, global vision and personalised learning. Entrepreneurship and leadership relate to personalised learning because we know that no two children have the same journey and our mission is to ignite the spark of genius in every child.
One of the ways we do this is through the Spark Tank incubator programme. This programme is available to all students and in every grade the children have an opportunity to express their creativity.
The Spark Tank has five steps – idea, plan, prototype, operations and launch – and the children are encouraged to present their ideas. With the little ones, from preschool to grade 4, we might invite parents to a coffee morning so the children can show what they’ve been working on. By the 5th grade, the end of the Primary Years Programme, we have an exhibition where the children present their idea to parents and the community. The Middle Years Programme concludes with a personal project, and in the Diploma Programme, which is the 11th and 12thgrades, we end with an extended essay.
Throughout every programme there are two requirements, one of which is service in action. It is important to understand that while we all want to make money, the goal should also be ‘how can this project or idea benefit my community?’
A student at Dwight School New York excelled in robotics and 3D laser cutters. He made a prosthetic hand and sold it for one-tenth of the price to veterans who’d lost their arm in service. From the 7th grade, he believed that these prosthetic limbs and hands were too expensive, so he wanted to build something to help. We encouraged him to think about his ideas and share his passion and by the time he was in the 9th grade, we had bought additional 3D printers and laser cutters, and had more equipment and a knowledgeable teacher to support him.
Why we must teach our children self-promotion
Project learning is a great way to encourage entrepreneurship and creativity. When the children join the Spark Tank to work on something specific, they have to plan and then present their ideas to a panel of judges, who are usually parents. We have a foundation and the children can receive up to $2,500 to put their ideas into action. A key part of the process is making sure that the children are aware of how to pitch because in today’s world, branding yourself is very important. You may be smart but if you don’t know how to stand up and sell yourself, you’re lost.
One student, who wants to be the “world’s best fashion designer”, asked for a lot of money when she presented her idea to the judges. When questioned about the amount, she explained it was to pay models to walk on the ramp. We suggested that she model the clothes herself instead. She did just that and today she has her own fashion line.
Design is a very important part of our curriculum and in the Middle Years Programme, we have a dedicated design subject, which helps to bring out children’s innovation and creativity. If a child has an idea, we see how we can help them plan it, make a prototype and put it into action, and then we launch it in front of people from the community.
The world is so big today, let the child come up with something that we have not come up with yet. Let’s not limit them. We want the children to be unique, we want to help them unfold their passion.
Empowering teachers to recognise children’s talents
This way of approaching a child’s learning is new. When today’s teachers underwent their training, entrepreneurship was not a part of the syllabus, so we now run teacher-training workshops through a programme called Frontier Learning. With the help of our Chief Innovation and Communications Officer in New York, Allison Feldman, we offer workshops and coaching programmes on empowering teachers to recognise children’s talents.
The teachers are trained to think ahead and taught what it is to have a startup, what is entrepreneurship, what are the challenges and what skills are needed, because the majority of our children are not going to work nine to five. Even now most of our graduates are usingentrepreneurship skills and passion to start something new. In California, for example, one of our very smart graduates is the co-founder of a successful solar electronics company.
What I see as the challenge for anyone wanting to come into this profession is the need to be open-minded. They have to understand that a classroom today does not hold rows of quietly sitting kids. The children have to move, they have to talk, otherwise how will you know what they like? To understand their passion, you have to understand their spirit. If every child is sitting still and quiet, how will you ever know what’s going on in their mind.?
We’re getting children ready for the global world.
As teachers, it’s exciting and challenging to plan the curriculum. We need to see how we can encourage these skills. The focus isn’t just on the content – of course that’s important, because we want the child to leave us educated and ready for college – but how do we prepare them for the world? How do we understand what they love? This is the key.