Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 26 August 2019

Bright and creative minds will own the future

A Dubai school's decision to give pupils a day and a half to pursue their own interests is a truly forward-looking move

Pupils will be able to take on internships at Siemens for a day each week under a flexible learning scheme by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority. Getty
Pupils will be able to take on internships at Siemens for a day each week under a flexible learning scheme by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority. Getty

Instead of making notes during double maths every Thursday, Shivikha will now be playing guitar. Her fellow pupil Ojas plans to give the classroom the chop to restart the karate lessons he had to abandon to keep up with his school work. A fascinating experiment at the Indian High School in Dubai recognises that children, like the adults they will become, are multifaceted individuals who benefit as much from having their horizons broadened as they do from focusing on academic attainment.

For old-school educationalists, the thought of giving pupils a day and a half “off” every week to pursue their own interests in sport, academic study or the arts will be anathema. But the world is changing. Increasingly, school-leavers will find themselves in a brave new world, in which many jobs have been lost to automation and algorithms.

Such is the speed of change and the continuous transformation of the employment landscape, that it is not yet clear what skills tomorrow’s young adults will need. Even once fail-safe careers, such as medicine, appear increasingly vulnerable, as the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution gathers pace.

Optimistic futurologists envisage a utopia in which a universal basic income frees us from the daily grind to make the most of an excess of leisure time. Pessimists offer a far bleaker alternative. Either way, it can only benefit today’s pupils to equip them with nimble minds, capable of flexible, creative thought, unfettered by rigid ideas and expectations. And, even if everyone has it wrong, and human workers are not usurped by machines, faced with the choice of one candidate who can write code, and another who can write code and play a beautiful Bach guitar sonata, to which one would you give the job?

Updated: January 29, 2019 07:08 PM

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