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  • Anne Tham

TEACH KIDS RIGHT

Updated: Sep 8

What does that even mean?


Question is, right in whose eyes? The government? This includes the Education Ministries, Human Resource, Industries and Trade, Science and Innovation. Then there are the politicians. They all have their different agendas.





The educators? They’re ‘specialists’ in preschool education, primary, secondary, tertiary, etc. They ‘know best’ what the learners need at their level of expertise. So, at pre-school and primary, they teach one skill or topic at a time. After all, these are kids. They cannot handle too many things at one time. (Myth or Fact?) But then at high school and tertiary levels, the students need multiple skills, cross-disciplinary knowledge and application. Educators at tertiary levels struggle with this as many students lack these skills at that point. Then they come out to the working world and the industries and employers ask, ‘What happened?’ The Parents? In so many countries, parents still believe in an education system that is 200 years old. They’re fighting to get their kids into the elite universities. That’s the top 1% or 2% of students in the world. Sir Ken Robinson jokingly said that the professors in the universities are training students to become professors like them.

Two major problems in education

One is that the system is a few hundred years old and little has been done to move it into the future. The other is the students who don’t even have access to basic education or the opportunities that their richer counterparts have. Every time the schools and education ministries talk about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, then, those fighting to provide equitable education will say what about these students who are left behind. Do we stop moving education forward so that those who don’t have, get to catch up? Are these 2 issues mutually exclusive? No, they’re not. Both have to move forward. The fight is and has to be 2-pronged. Realistically, we have to understand that their paces will be different.

What teaching kids right mean:

1. Kids and teens thrive in informality.

Whenever I tell people to let kids be kids, and teens be teens, the first reaction I get is: “WHAT? YOU MEAN THERE’S NO DISCIPLINE!?” Now, the thing is, I would really like people to understand the nature of children. First off, they have a ton of energy. Very high energy. Secondly, they love to push boundaries. Wherever they can, they will push them. Third and finally, they love things that interest and excite them. So, the issue we are grappling with is what happens when they’re at school. The kids and teens are told to sit down, be quiet, stop running around, stop talking with your friends, and get back to your seat. In that sort of learning environment…kids don’t thrive. It’s an artificial formal environment and they’re expected to ‘behave’. If you want to grow their personalities and who they are as individuals… this won’t work. They thrive in informality. Now then, what do we do? So, many adults ask, “You’re saying to let the kids decide what they want?” No! We’re not talking about letting them decide what they want to do, and let them have free rein and run around if they want. NO! As teachers, we need to know how to harness their energy. We also need to find them more engaging things to do. So, whatever we’re making them learn, we need to redirect it, and then make learning more exciting, interesting. When students work in groups they get to talk to their friends; they get to socialise. Unfortunately, people say: “But, they’re talking about other things too!” Well, when we are working, as adults, and we go for meetings, we don’t go “alright guys, we only talk about this one thing here, and nothing else.” Half the time, we connect with people, maybe just socialise a little bit to find out how everyone else is doing, jokes are told in the meeting. We build relationships, but we discuss serious stuff too. So, why can’t children and teenagers do that as well? We need to know the reality of what it means to work in groups. Now, what is actually most important is this: when you tell kids that they have to behave in that formal manner, then, the message is “It is wrong to behave like a child. It is wrong to behave like a teen.”

ADULTS EXPECT THESE KIDS TO BE LITTLE ADULTS. ACTUALLY, THEY MAKE MISERABLE LITTLE ADULTS. So, how about thinking of shifting the energy in a school, being more informal, so that they can learn and be themselves. They thrive a whole lot better. 2. Enjoying, being happy and engaged while learning serious subjects.

Recently, I had some students from Hong Kong spend a week or two in our school to experience a different system of education. On the last day in our school, a number of them cried. That evening, one of the girls asked her Mum, “Is it really possible? To be so happy and do well in the exams?” We’re looking at an education system that is focused on the 21st Century Skills like engagement, collaboration, meaning, empathy, fun – while producing excellent academic results without losing the human component in the process. Imagine students doing Add Maths experiments at the water theme park, playing a game with wizards and mages for Economics and debriefing six topics at one go. We have students using Hip Hop moves to remember Kinetic Particle Theory. This moves information from short term memory to long term for exam purposes. East meets West, holistic learning plus the rigour of exams. The majority, 80%, must do well, not the minority at 20%. It is possible to have Fun + No stress + Good results. This moves the majority of students from ‘average’ students to being extraordinary. Sir Ken Robinson said at BETT (British Education Training and Technology) Show in 2017 when talking about education “The system creates the problem, change the system and the problem goes away” 3. Practical education

• News Flash! 7-year old CEO with a tea business. • 11-year old boy with a bow tie business which he started at 9. • 15-year old boy sold an app to Yahoo for USD 30m. We are fascinated by powerful, inspiring stories like these.

So the question is ‘Should children or teens be introduced to Entrepreneurship and financial education at primary and secondary school?’ Would they grow up with the right values? Would they end up becoming materialistic? And do they have time for their studies? Not teaching this does not ensure that adults are automatically not materialistic nor do they all by default have all the right values when they become adults either. I hear so many stories that in most schools children get scolded and punished for selling cookies, erasers, crystal bracelets etc in school. They got into a lot of trouble with their teachers, and principals. Just imagine the impression this makes on these children and the friends around them. The danger is that the message children get at that age is that doing business is wrong. It is a bad thing.

That stays with them till adulthood.

Wait! Isn’t going to school to prep the kids for their careers in the future? Most are going to be working in a…wait for it…a business!! Aren’t studies to prep children to work in businesses or run businesses, their own or other people’s? Where is the connection right now between what they learn in school and that world they are stepping out into? Our 14-year old student in Malaysia started his business doing copywriting on Fiver. He has international clients including an Australian wine company. These are applying whatever knowledge they have and learning what they don’t have. They are making their knowledge practical. They learn that their skills have value. Education has to be practical, not academic for the children and teen to work on theoretical stuff just for the sake of educating the children. The question is not if we should teach this but how do we make sure entrepreneurship become part of the school curriculum.

4. As educators, do we teach for a small percentage to succeed all the way to university or do we teach to make sure all the students are successful to contribute to their community and society.

Right now, in many countries, the focus is on the top students. They make up about 5% of the student population. As educators, we have to make sure all students need to be educated…to succeed in life. I was asked this question, “Finland does not have a standardised testing system, in your view what are the pros and cons of a standardised testing system.” People are not standardised. So, why should exams be? The damage these exams do to those who do not fit into this system is horrific. We lose so many with potential and possibilities because this is not how they learn best. These exams test only academic skills in most cases. It is very one-dimensional and human beings are not. Some will argue that the pros include that theses exams will separate the students who are academic. But the world out there requires that these students too be able to apply their academic skills upon graduation. Yet, many aren’t able to. Pasi Sahlberg, a very famous Finnish education expert, says that standardised testing systems kill innovation and creativity in the classroom. So, how important then is creativity and innovation in a classroom? It is most critical for the growth of the country and its economy. Students have to be creative, innovative and collaborative in subjects perceived as predominantly very left-brained – Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Information Technology, Mathematics, Economics, Accounting, History, Geography etc. The development of the curriculum has to head in this direction. Kids actually love learning this way! But, many adults ask, “Does this translate into exams?” or say, “This is not in the exams and that it distracts their children from prepping for the exams!” 5. Students need to learn for their future, not our present.

Currently, most education systems are still focusing on IQ (Intelligence Quotient) and in some countries and schools, there is a move towards EQ (Emotional Quotient). However, what we have to equip the students with for the future are CQ (Cultural Quotient or Curiosity Quotient) and AQ (Adaptive Quotient). The World Economic Forum estimated that for children entering primary school at this time, 65% of the jobs they will do when they leave school do not exist yet. , meaning we don’t really know what they will be. How does an education system address this issue.

CERTAINLY NOT BY STANDARDISED TESTING WHICH TESTS THE PAST.


Question is then how do you test the future?

“The past is owned by those who know, the present is controlled by those who think, and the future belongs to those who can imagine.” (Author unknown)


The world is changing more quickly than you can imagine, and it waits for no one. If our children stay put with the current education systems many countries have to offer, they will be left behind. Sir Anthony Seldon in his book, The Fourth Education Revolution, emphasises this “…we need to be educating our young to become more fully human.” For all of us in education to be aware of, we have to focus on growing the children to be more fully human in a world focused on becoming more digital. When we get this right, then we face the most unlikely problem a school can have. Our students don’t want holidays!

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