Innovation in Education has been an occupation but more importantly a passion of mine since the early 2000s, using Technology as a Motor of Change since the first graphic programming languages, creating interactive biology courses at the age of 14. I accompanied the evolution of technologies in the educational sector, most importantly in our community and ecosystem. Today I hold key positions within the Tech Industry, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Ecosystems, and Academic Organizations.
Throughout all these years of involvement in the EdInnovation space, and comparing its state across several countries and education systems, I believe there is a massive Time Lag in our education, in matters of What we Learn, and How.
Several initiatives are already being implemented in Moroccan universities, in innovation and entrepreneurship, such as the UM5 Innovation Center and MOOC, the ENSIAS Valley, and SoftCentre at INPT to name a few that I had the pleasure to work and interact with, the innovation models in those programs, should be replicated across other universities. As well as innovation competitions and hackathons in Morocco, from Junior Enterprise, to INJAZ, Hack&Pitch, Tamkeen and many other School/University specific competitions that I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring and/or judging, as they have a positive impact on students’ ability to innovate, and awareness of the issues around them, provoking a deep sense of purpose, motivating them in learning.
But that isn’t enough, we need to take a page from International Universities’ innovation programs, as I’ve been part of several, such as the New York University Tech Hackathon for Arab Social Good, the Ford Foundation Entrepreneurship Academy with Virginia Commonwealth University, and the International Mentorship Program by Yale. Those have interesting tools, learning domains, and pedagogic techniques that I’ve witnessed, learned or transferred during those programs, that we can replicate while adapting to our local context.
Based on these learning and experiences, here’s in my opinion a few recommendations that might help improve on the state of innovation integration within our educational environments and ecosystems:
1- Starting early, we can’t wait til university to start working on these issues, as by then most of career choices have already been made for those youth, and it’s very difficult to start a 180 degree transformation in that stage. So let’s start implementing these programs at least from middle and high school in a bite-sized format, to enable early positive change.
DigiGirlz coding camp by Microsoft, working with high school girls on their digital solutions.
2- Whether it be conferences , hackathons, masterclass, incubators accelerators, training programs , technology and coding boot camps, intro to entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship programs, co-creation sessions, learning expéditions, expérimental workshops, innovation Focus groups, design thinking run throughs to name a few are great tools to use strategically in structuring the innovation program in the extracurricular education activities.
3- Trusting students to make decisions in controlled environments, the Tamkeen experience tought us that if students are made responsible for their own actions, and tasked to solve issues of their own communities, in this case it was their high schools, they came up with amazing solutions and implemented them with minimal supervision and guidance.
Enactus National Leadership university program, workshop on Tech Enabled Startups and Student Entrepreneurship.
4- Showing examples of local success in all walks of life, giving youth the understanding that all the kinds of career possibilities they come across in the digital world whether it be through television characters or social media, are achievable even within their specific environments. Global Shapers Rabat have made an interesting project called Shapers on the Move, that works as a caravane of local self made success stories, going to public and private high schools.
5- Facilitating Learning outside the classroom, creating à support ecosystem around formal education to either complete it, level the opportunity playing field, or open eyes to new réalities in an ever changing world going faster and faster everyday, à world where more than 60% of elementary school students will have jobs that haven’t been created yet, is where I’ve put thé accent in programs I ran or worked with.
After baby boomers, générations XYZ are much more driven by purpose than financial Stability, this doesn’t affect only their job selection and career changing habits, but it started affecting their schooling choices, whether they go to University or not, and a few other things that pertain tremendously to their décision making processes.
We’ve noticed companies reacting to it first after their turnovers started going through the roof, as it affects their bottom lines, so we started noticing happy offices with food and play rooms, and when that didn’t work we’re starting to see companies give 10–20 per cent of their employées time back to them in order to create personal projects (google) or charity/social projects (OCP).
Next were private schools and universities as a mean to attract more millennials through a large variety of extracurricular programs, in innovation, new technologies, cultural initiatives and entrepreneurship programs as competition is getting fierce in the private education sector.
So I wonder: when does the time come for public educational institutions to get on that wagon…? to close the learning opportunity gap at least if not equalizing it. Hoping the answer would be Now !
PS: This is an op-ed based on my talk in “Innovation in Education International Symposium”, organized by the Higher National Council for Education and Scientific Research (CSEFRS Colloque Innovation).