GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Transforming the Business of Education: Embedding 21st Century Skills for the Future of Work
Paper Proposal Text :
Whilst the world around us is becoming increasing volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, the VUCA world, most civic development and education systems around the world, and especially in our region, are arguably moving in the opposite direction. Pursuing more integrated infrastructure development priorities towards “Smart Cities” and an increased focus on licensing institutions and teachers is establishing a learning landscape that’s just the opposite, fixed, prescriptive, rigid and highly structured. Whilst “Smart Cities” are intended to support greater personal, organizational and societal productivity and positivity, international benchmarks suggest that we have amongst the lowest metrics in the world within the GCC. The world around us, and our built environment is changing at an unprecedented pace, and even by modest standards, our education systems simply can’t keep pace. It takes at least a decade to realise any benefits of education reform, and its already too late by then, as the world of work has changed yet again. There is a fundamental dichotomy in the way our education system and labour markets function, and the much-debated education to employment gap is creating challenges for local talent, as evidenced by persistently high levels of structural unemployment in the GCC. While most would agree with the challenges we face in education and employment, and the importance to educate youth on having a positive mindset, being grittier or more self-confident, these concepts still seem fuzzy, and most policy-makers, urban planners, educators, employers, students or parents do not fully understand how to value, teach and develop these skills. Recent developments in positive psychology and positive education have provided the research, impetus and direction to develop interventions for our classrooms and workplaces. Positive psychology provides scientific evidence to prove that our overall happiness, well-being and life success has a lot to do with cultivating our personal strengths and fostering meaningful social relationships, much more than our socio-economic status, biological makeup, academic achievement and intellect. For the future population in general, such strengths are more relevant during periods of lower growth and increased focus on environmental sustainability going forward. For youth in particular, these strengths and skills impact critical outcomes such as how they do academically, lower dropout rates in education, better mental health outcomes, more informed career decisions, persistence with job search and overall happiness and well-being. Incorporating these factors into the built environment of our smart cities of the future is critical to promote more positivity, productivity and wellbeing going forward and avoid the perfect storm of populations with low levels of employability, poor health and well – being and continued, critical environmental degradation. This paper will provide an in-depth case study on Yanmu or Saudi Arabia’s National Growth Mindset initiative. The program was conceptualised to provide youth with the awareness and behavioural change required towards work preparedness, employability and life skill development and to support Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Plan. The program also helped establish a strong partnership between the public, private and third sector, and is supported by the Ministry of Education and Al Alwaleed Philanthropies, delivered by Injaz Saudi Arabia, Dimam and The Talent Enterprise. Yanmu was successfully piloted in 10 schools in Riyadh and Jeddah, with 600 students in November and December, and the paper will discuss the design and deployment of the program, as well as the research outcomes from a thorough program evaluation. The program is expected to scale to cover 1000 schools and 60,000 students by 2020. Using a variety of inter-active learning pedagogical approaches, including animated videos, group activities and personal reflection, the Yanmu program focus on providing youth with the tools and resources they need to build essential skills for life and to foster longer term behavioural and attitudinal change.

Our impact research has clearly established that focusing on fostering 21st century skills and strengths in youth from programs such as these is not only the ‘right’ thing to do for policy-makers, educators, employers and parents, but the ‘smart’ thing to do. We are seeing a significant on all program outcomes, including pre and post self-report measures on all indicators of career awareness, work preparedness, increased self-confidence, shift from a fixed to growth mindset, grit and resilience.

Summary of Key Outcomes from Yanmu (n = 422)

On Completion of the Program
 94% of students believed that they were better prepared to succeed in their careers
 96% believed that all the information received in Yamnu was important for their future careers and lives in general
 96% really enjoyed learning about new concepts such as growth mindset, grit, resilience and self-confidence
 95% believe they now have the foundational skills and ideas they need to develop their growth mindset, grit, resilience and self-confidence
 96% loved the videos shown in the program to explain concepts such as growth mindset, grit and resilience and could relate to the examples shown
 96% would recommend the program to their friends

Key Changes Pre and Post Program
Career Readiness
 A 37% increase on their awareness in the Saudi job market and confidence to pursue a career
 A change from 44% to 93% in having the necessary skills and information to prepare for a job interview
 A shift from 68% to 97% in being able to prioritise and manage their time better

Happiness and School-Engagement
 A 21% increase in their engagement and interest in school activities
 A 20% change (from 72% to 92%) where students believe they now have the skills and resources to be better prepared for their futures
 Happiness and meaning in their lives increased from 76% to 97%

Life Skills
 A 24% increase in their overall grit and resilience
 A 20% change from fixed to growth mindset, while 92% believed they were much more motivated to change their mindset
 A 17% increase (from 74% to 91) in being able to cope with the pressures at home and school
 96% believed that they were more confident after the program and could achieve anything if they put the effort in

Our analysis will demonstrate a clear benefit from investing in practical programs like these to implement a more positive approach to education. So far we have invested a lot in our region on the built environment and infrastructure to support the knowledge-based economies required for the future. Smart cities need smart people to succeed and the new hardware and innovative software needs to be complemented by positive and productive people - to be fully sustainable.