By Khalid AlAmeri(@KhalidAlAmeri)
What do you want to be when you grow up? A classic question that opens the gates of dreams, ambitions and curiosity wide open; allowing kids to truly think of where they see themselves in the future. But what if you were never asked that question? What if you were never given the opportunity to think outside the four walls of the classroom into the real world? You see, I was never asked by any member of the faculty what I wanted to do after high school or university, and with the business landscape at the time, parents expected us to either become bankers or engineers. So the outcome was inevitable, its summer 2001, I am standing on stage in my high school graduation robe thinking “now what?”
After graduation, the process was pretty straightforward for UAE nationals; you handed in your transcripts to as many local universities, government companies and education councils hoping for sponsorship and you pretty much took what you could get. Our leaders have always put higher education at the forefront of our country’s development; they give citizens every opportunity to continue either locally or abroad. The only issues that come up are of misalignment & lack of career awareness during the administration process between the local authorities and citizens seeking sponsorship.
Midway through the summer of 2001, I was given the opportunity to study Environmental Science by a local education authority. Aside of that opportunity, even though I am sure I ticked the finance box on the form as the major of preference , I was somehow offered to study the marine transportation sector from a local oil company. I took the later as the oil industry was a safer bet at the time but did I want to be learning about & working on ships? I did not know, nobody ever asked me.
With the pressure to complete my studies and start working, I am sure you can all relate, I had to wait until after graduating university to truly discover what I wanted to do in life. After much self-reflection post university graduation, combined with capitalizing on opportunities that presented themselves, I realized that business, entrepreneurship and writing were my passions in life. That, however, does not mean future generations have to endure the same initial confusion and delayed discovery. So how do we go about educating our kids on the great wide world and what it has to offer them? Well it all starts with their immediate surroundings for the first 15 years of the educational life, schools.
One UAE based school’s mission statement included a line that goes “We want our students to become life-long learners and make a difference in a challenging global environment”. The way I see it, the best way to prepare kids for the challenging global environment is to find out where their skills, talents and passions lie then prepare them accordingly. Seems pretty simple but the reality of our education system is a whole other matter.
I read an article in a local newspaper not too long ago that discussed how Emirati students were pursing education and how it will affect their entry into the workforce. The article raised a good point that current arts focused students were not as equipped as their science based counterparts for the future industrial & technology based local markets of the UAE. I agree wholeheartedly.
What surprised me while reading the article was the description of Arts based curriculum as ‘wrong’. How can any education be wrong? I understand that it may not directly fit into the long-term development of the country, but what is truly important is that the education, no matter the form, fits into the long-term development of the individual. This, I believe, is how true leaders are bred; by doing things they love and becoming excellent at them. Whether its leaders of business, media, or arts, they all have a vital role to play in the social and economic development of our country.
Until today, I strongly believe that schools in the UAE and globally are not doing enough to educate our children on the diverse working world that awaits them; and if they are, the focus is restricted to traditional industries such as finance or manufacturing. A school plays a critical role in shaping the minds of our children and should create an environment where they are allowed to explore & discover their talents. Additionally, schools today should put an equal emphasis on social subjects and arts as they do math and science to at least level the playing field.
Teachers should engrain creative thinking into each of their classes and give students a chance to showcase their individual talents in their everyday education. I consider it a crime and a huge loss to society for any child to be told he or she cannot do something just because it does not fit perfectly into the school’s traditional picture of a future career.
International Author and speaker on education, Sir Ken Robinson, capped off his 2010 TED Talk with a short poem which ends with ‘Everyday, everywhere our children spread their dreams beneath our feet, and we should tread softly’. If I could go back in time and pass on a message to my teachers it would be ‘Ask me what I want to be when I grow up. Unlock my hopes and dreams, and when you do, embrace those dreams, and remember, tread softly.
June 2011’s issue:
Here We Start – Community Talk – Food for Thought – Just Another Undergrad
Living Through The Eyes of Art – Microscopic Me – Scenes From Life
Society of Tomorrow – To The Point – Words, Observations, and Ramblings