Building a new vision for education Building a new vision for education

Ibrahim Naji is leading a homegrown initiative called ImpactEd, which is a real-world project management system that distributes sustainable development challenges to university classrooms. As a passionate advocate of modern education, he shares his candid views on why today’s educational systems are failing their students and how he’s determined to bring a change…

I remember sitting in class as a youngster, looking at the whiteboard and listening passively to what Professor Carlson had to say about the Albedo Effect and how it affected our environment, followed by hours of reading and intense note-taking. But, having very little room for creativity, critical thinking or practicality, I always found myself asking the professor: “when will I ever use this in my day-to-day life.” A question every student asks at a certain point in time because of the lack of practicality in what it is they are being taught. I remember applying for internships, going to conferences and taking on my own entrepreneurial initiatives to bridge the monumental gap that my studies had failed to fill. But when you’re paying between US$ 10,000 to 20,000 a year to attain a high school or college degree, you shouldn’t have to rely on external sources to prepare you for the real world. Sometimes I wonder just how many students have fallen through those cracks?

Education vs. practical learning

Eight in 10 college students feel like their university education would be more fulfilling and preparing if their secondary educational experience had higher standards. There is an incredible gap between secondary education and workforce readiness; students don’t have the ability to solve real life challenges. We are still relying on an educational system that addresses 19th century needs for labour, where graduates can perform simple and repetitive tasks. We live in such a fast-paced society, where the demand for skills and knowledge has shifted. In fact, in approximately 15 years, 65 per cent of graduates will be going into jobs that don’t yet exist. Given these circumstances, lessons that are being taught in classrooms today aren’t as relevant anymore.

Students spend their entire youth in a boxed classroom, polarised from reality, checking boxes and solving theoretical non-existent problems while communities around them thirst for innovative problem solvers. On the other hand, you have businesses, government agencies and non-profit organisations, who continuously seek knowledge about how to approach these challenges, but lack the human resources to achieve their full potential. So, what if our leaders of tomorrow could grow their skills by solving the challenges of today? It’s time to consider our most important stakeholders.

Educational institutions: time for reform

If we look at the global challenges we’re facing, they are multi-faceted and cannot be solved by a single stakeholder. It is a collaborative effort. One of the biggest challenges is that there is an innate distrust between the various stakeholders and critical issues are not being solved with a 360-degree lens. The world needs a more systemic solution with fresh eyes and a collaborative mindset.

The K12 market, as well as higher education institutions, have realised that they will eventually lose relevance if they don’t adapt to the evolving climate of education. The rise of e-learning giants that have attracted millions of students has forced a revolutionising ultimatum to schools. From a business perspective, companies have slowly but surely, embraced students as a force for change, yet none of the parties are moving fast enough. A collective platform is needed where communication between schools and organisations can be internalised and facilitated, within the traditional educational system.

The problem is that high schools, as well as universities, are increasingly unable to engage 21st-century learners. They focus on theories, requiring students to spend years studying fictitious scenarios. This leaves our students disengaged, overwhelmed with debt and unprepared for the workforce. In fact, seven in 10 college graduates state that their university education failed to prepare them for their careers. Granted, schools are attempting to correct this with technology, hopeful that the key to engaging 21st-century learners lies on a screen. They are now spending US$13 billion on various educational technologies and will be shelling out US$18 billion by 2018. Consequently, 50 per cent of universities is dissatisfied with their learning management provider. And a gap like that demands a new player.

That is where RealEDU comes into play. RealEDU is a project management system that facilitates real world problem solving within high school classrooms through collaboration with industry partners. The first student innovation hub, for companies and organisations, that cares about impact; bridging the massive disconnect between secondary education and workforce readiness. Moving away from theoretical assignments and box-checking exams, to practical real world experiences. But the question still arises; how will high school students manage to deliver tangible solutions for corporations and government agencies?

That is where RealEDU comes into play. RealEDU is a project management system that facilitates real world problem solving within high school classrooms through collaboration with industry partners. The first student innovation hub for companies and organisations that care about impact; bridging the massive disconnect between secondary education and student workforce readiness. This solution is taking huge strides as it moves away from theoretical assignments and box-checking exams to practical real world experiences. But the question still arises: how will high school students manage to deliver tangible solutions for corporations and government agencies? Companies want to know, need to know how, how these demographics act, what these demographics want to sustain the livelihood of their business?

Children that are currently in high-schools are the ones that will shape our tomorrow. Therefore, providing companies with a portal into these students’ minds is what is going to sustain them. This is how you bring real world problem-solving to the K-12 market without compromising the value for companies.

With RealEDU looking to penetrate Asia within the coming months, our mission is to make sure that the world will have seen a major shift in education models, as communities will see their students as active assets rather than idle investments.

Rushika Bhatia Editor

Rushika Bhatia is one of the region’s leading commentators on business and current affairs issues. She is the Editor of SME Advisor magazine - the flagship title of CPI Business. She is passionate about infographics – with special emphasis on data, research and statistics. Rushika has a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University, USA and is also CIMA qualified.

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