Half of what your kids learn in the first 2 years of college will be outdated by the time they graduate,” said Education Reformer, Kiran Bir Sethi!

The top 10 most demanded jobs that we are preparing our children for today may not even exist by the time our kids are ready to join the workforce. So, what is the future of education? And what is the education for the future? How can we design thinking process in education so that it is productive for our children when they leave school?

In Singapore recently to share her ideas and experiences with local educators and youth propagators at a social gathering organized by SoCh in Action and the Lien Centre for Social Innovation, Kiran offers some insights to the education conundrum that’s been puzzling Singapore parents and educators for decades.

Charity organization kids think
Kiran Bir Seth, Founder of Riverside School and Design for Change (DFC).

“Children CAN change the World,” is the emphatic belief of this social entrepreneur. 

A designer by training, Kiran founded the world-renowned Riverside School in Ahmedabad, India (2007) to initiate a new teaching process to enable and empower children to think creatively and act successfully on their ideas, thereby becoming the instigators of change.

Her school uses methods like field-based education to emphasize on real world learning. For example, her kindergarten students thought and initiated ways to make the Zoo more child-friendly, her 10-year-old students learn to strategize and organize an international conference; and her older students were so successful in implementing a marketing plan to introduce a new product to the market that the conglomerate that they present their ideas to adopted it as their permanent corporate product.

Can children really design solutions? 

In a society where children are almost always dependent on adults and their voices drowned out by adult commands (especially in an Asian context), how do we get our children to think “I CAN make a difference or change” instead of the self-doubting and disempowering “can I?”

Kiran firmly believes they can: “When adults believe in children and say, “You Can”. THEY Will (rise to the occasion).” The immense success of her students’ achievements are testimonials to her belief.  The results are astounding and inspire her to continue her quest to infect children all over the world with the “I Can” attitude.

In 2009, she initiated a Design for Change (DFC) School Challenge in India which went viral and took the world by storm. DFC is now the world’s largest change movement by children involving 25 million kids across 35 countries!

In Singapore, DFC is generating lots of interest.  In line with the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) values in action, some local educators have implemented DFC to varied degree of successes. Some projects initiated by local kids include Primary 5 students helping their seniors sitting for the pressurizing Primary School Leaving Exam (PSLE) relieve some pressure, dealing with teen depression, saying No to shark’s fin soup and appreciating taxi uncles or in the case of Raffles Institution (RI), creating social awareness among their school mates to appreciate the cleaning efforts of their school’s cleaners.

RI boys Keith Tay and Lee Chan Wai, both 15, initiated a Smiles For Cleaners Project after witnessing the careless disregard by their school mates for the hard work executed by these cleaners. Their objective? To get students to acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of these otherwise “invisible” cleaners  with a simple smile or word of thanks.

But what about academic results? 

“When children are empowered, not only do they do good, they do well. In fact, VERY WELL,” Kiran says emphatically. And she has her students’ academic results to prove it. Students from Riverside School consistently outshine the students in India’s top schools with their academic results. Her students are motivated, confident and responsible – a constant inspiration to their peers.

For her efforts, Kiran was awarded a TED India Fellow and an Ashoka Fellow. She was also recently chosen as one of 12 Thought Leaders of the World – an Innovation Knight for the i4P (Innovation for Peace) Society, New York.

Watch her TED video here

Kiran is currently looking for someone who can help champion her cause in Dubai.  Interested parties, please email her at kiranbirsethi@gmail.com

Finally, she leaves a word of advice to parents: “Don’t have a parent face that is often a scowl with your children.  Start a conversation, especially when the kids are young. Switched everything off and talk to them, keeping good eye contact with them. If you’re having difficulty starting a conversation, have each member write a question anonymously on a piece of paper and place them in a bowl.  Then, share a bowl of popcorn and just start talking.”

Share with us the interesting topics or conversations you and your kids have had…

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