Entrepreneurship: Preparing Students for 2040

A student starting today will graduate sometime near 2040, and no one knows what the world look like, and what skills will be in demand. What can UAE schools do to ensure students are ready?
Entrepreneurship: Preparing Students for 2040
By David Westley
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Education has been set up for a way the world was, rather than the way it will be, to paraphrase Sir Ken Robinson, whose TED speech on creativity in education rings as true today as it did 16 million views ago (see video). Science, and maths still sit on top of the hierarchy of subjects, as they would for an education system built to service the industrial revolution.

That the issues Sir Ken discusses remain, is unsurprising. Education is deliberately slow and careful, and it has big issues to grapple with. His key assertion remains: a student starting today will graduate sometime near 2040, and no one knows what the world look like, and what skills will be in demand.

The good news is most schools we spoke to in the course of this feature are more than aware of this, and actively doing something about it.

"We understand something of the future that the students in our care will inherit and the very different employment patterns that lie ahead, Matthew Farthing, Principal of Nord Anglia Dubai told us. "We do work closely with students and parents when it comes to guidance counselling and we are careful to question some of the assumptions that prevail with regard to how young people should plan their careers based upon the success that their parents have experienced before."

In preparing for a world 20 years into the future, most educationalist talk about the 'character' needed for success. There is increasing recognition that, as Paul Garner, the Deputy Head if Deira International tells us, "Every child has the ability to be an entrepreneur". The key is to allow characters to develop that are resilient, creative, communicative, and willing to try and fail, and try again.

"Entrepreneurial skills, creative thinking, programmes, activities and events are systemic in our school, Shane O'Brien, Director of JESS Dubai tells us. "Opportunities [at the school] are in abundance and tap into the creative and competitive spirit of our students.

"Our innovation programme is one such example where broader based questions are posed, and students can conduct their own route to problem solving. Our Higher Performance Qualification (HPQ) introduced at GCSE level this year, allows students to again identify an academic area of research/interest and self-direct their learning to achieve these goals."

"We are keen to ensure that enterprise is seen as part of social responsibility and we have an assistant headteacher who has responsibility for this entire agenda," Chris Vizzard, DESSC's Head of Secondary tells us. "This is a vital part of provision for generation Z and is often also linked to sustainability in subjects such as geography and GROW lessons.

There is another payoff in teaching students entrepreneurialism, and that, according to research, is is the high levels of student motivation and engagement it triggers, resulting in considerably 'deeper' learning. Deira International views its role as educators to create the environment where entrepreneurialism can surface naturally. Says Mr Garner, Deputy Head at Deira International: "We hold numerous events throughout the year to allow this to happen. Our ‘Winter Wonderland Celebration’, for example, is the culmination of our commerce department’s GCSE and IB pupils planning and delivering a market place for pupils and parents."

In a similar vein, Dubai College's Sixth Form Computer Science students are commissioned on an annual to produce digital solutions to the school's needs and desires. "For example, says Mike Lambert, its Principal, "one student has recently written a Model United Nations Conference organising platform, another tracks students' mood and flow in lessons and a third has devised a system for recording evidence of improvement for students working on our organisation programme.

"With some creative thinking schools can integrate opportunities for entrepreneurship into their classrooms and their extra-curricular programmes. Quite often I think schools feel obligated to provide an additional bolt-on solution to answer every new demand from outside, whereas with a little creative thinking they can adapt and adjust what they currently do to meet the ever-changing demands of the modern world."

Perhaps the best news, and single biggest advantage for UAE students, is the UAE itself, as a crucible or hot bed of creativity and entrepreneurialism. We asked our schools whether UAE schools were in any way, disadvantaged compared to the UK, or Europe, when it came to industry integration...

"No, the UAE is certainly not disadvantaged, there are only plusses," JESS's Director responded.

"I see evidence of more opportunities in the UAE for young people to move directly from education to industry. The positive vibe and ‘entrepreneurial’ approach in Dubai have created a working environment that will try anything and take risks. There is a willingness to create opportunities and a desire to see young people flourish.

"This is a great formula to keep young talent in the UAE. There are more young people staying in the UAE at age 18 and significantly more young people returning to the UAE after tertiary study abroad because of the more exciting opportunities in the world of work compared to other countries."

Nord Anglia's principal, Mr. Farthing agrees: "I think that young people who are brought up in the UAE and Dubai enjoy understanding some of the significant opportunities that come from living in such a contemporary city state where tolerance and diversity are core to the belonging.

"The vision expressed in Expo 2020 is exemplary and I think, in the decades to come, our students will look back on their schooldays with pride as they take places of responsibility in the complex and challenging futures they inherit.

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