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How A School In The Kingdom of Bahrain May Hold Keys To The Future
As mentioned in a previous article, the world’s educational systems are challenged to transform to meet the needs of the knowledge economy. For global economic growth, its graduates must be able to find work or start their own businesses. There may be some validity to the idea that education should remain somewhat separate from the needs of business, otherwise schools become little more than factories that turn out the people that industry requires. At the same time, the products that graduate in education are people, and people want to have work and work as well as enjoy not only survival but also the luxuries that they see others enjoying.
This is the second in a series of articles on the challenges and potential changes facing education in the 21st century. The obvious direct approach to preparing people of all ages for new jobs is to teach them that job. This has led educators to view education in two ways: one is academic, which teaches students to think, process ideas, solve problems, and be scientists. The other track, alternative, was vocational. This often implied a status that was somehow “inferior” to vocational work. Students were assigned to go one way or the other. The modern world is less compartmentalized than that, and seeing vocation or academics as two separate ways of being will no longer work. The modern employee or employer must maintain many of the same skills as the academic. Everyone needs to find information, organize it to meet the needs of their particular context, publish it in digital and non-digital formats, and be prepared to engage in active debate about the ideas they are working with. This is as true for a group of traders as it is for teachers, managers, businessmen. The disconnect is that while some of these skills can be developed during group work or project-based learning, most of the world still learns in classrooms with rows of desks, a teacher in front of them and the students madly scribbling notes preparing to regurgitate the content. it’s given to them when it’s time to take a test. What would a school look like if we started over? The answer to this question is being addressed in the Kingdom of Bahrain by its new Polytechnic University.
This article briefly discusses these ideas in the hope that they will be of interest to others and start a debate about new possibilities that can be used to transform education.
Bahrain Polytechnic University
All good action research starts with going deeper into the current circumstances and understanding what is needed, maybe that’s why I like Bahrain Polytechnic so much. They began designing a program by conducting a series of interviews with the human relations department to find out what they expected from the graduates they were hiring. Their findings showed that employers’ current perception was that 49% of university graduates lacked the soft skills they needed (i.e. team communication and problem solving), 44% lacked the language skills , mathematics or necessary professionals that were. necessary, and 42% did not understand professional conduct or were not properly motivated to do a good job. This puts a huge burden on employers because their recruitment and training process is expensive and if almost 50% of the people they hire do not have the basics, they are inclined to go out of the country for their recruitment. Through the interview process, the design team at Bahrain Polytechnic then decided that they needed a curriculum that included these skills in the curriculum not just as a supplement or by-product of the educational process. They concluded that the traditional context and knowledge-based education must change rapidly. This is not easy, there are many things against it. For example, when you start something new, people don’t have confidence that you know what you’re doing, especially if what you’re doing implies that what they’re doing isn’t good enough. There are also difficulties in finding staff to carry out your vision, because after all, your vision is new and likely to be misinterpreted. Finally, facilities you inherit from other models are by definition obsolete and get in the way of what you’re trying to achieve.
Despite these challenges, Bahrain Polytechnic has introduced three skill sets, or types of growth, that will overlap and be worked on simultaneously throughout students’ tenure at the University. There will, of course, be the academic studies, but alongside the direct instruction will be skills for employment and an ever-developing profile of self-awareness. In other words, these students will be continually assessed on their attitude, delivery and consistency with each other and how they see themselves. Wonderful! Educators will say things like, “it all sounds great, but how can you measure it?” Although still a work in progress, Bahrain Polytechnic has made great strides in answering this question. Still two years away from their first graduating class, they see that their graduates have three records they will take to future employers. The first provides an overview of the range of academic content achievement levels, the same as offered by universities around the world.
The second is what they call an employability profile in which the student has had to demonstrate and has been continuously assessed by staff on what are considered the soft skills of communication, teamwork, problem solving, initiative and enterprise , planning and organization, self-management. management, learning and technology. These same skills are evaluated by the students themselves in their self-knowledge profile. The three are then graphically placed on top of each other to give the employer a visual representation of the entire job applicant. How is this done? Through a curriculum that builds on the core curriculum of strong English skills, research ability, use of information technology and mathematics. Degrees offered are Bachelors or Diplomas in: Visual Design, International Logistics Management, Information and Communication Technology, Business, Office Management, Web Media and Engineering Technology. They are just starting the design process of the new campus, where the architecture of the buildings they inhabit will help rather than hinder their mission through wide spaces, places that are easy to find, an environment that favors project work 24/7 etc. It was a pleasure to be able to participate in his discussion with the architect, and this should only dramatically increase the ability to think creatively, since the students will no longer be contained in rows of boxes. Its campus fits the lifestyle generated by digital natives, who easily jump between social, organizational and project design work.
This article seeks an innovative solution to the problems discussed in previous writings about the apparent disconnect between education graduates and the needs of the employers who will hire them. Even as a start-up, this university has good management and solid support from the Kingdom of Bahrain. At the moment he seems to think that there is a good chance that he will accomplish his mission. As I have said elsewhere, it is easier to start fresh in some cases, such as when a dramatic change is being made, and then readjust existing structures. Future articles in this series will explore the ways and means in which action research can help when education and policy face a “reset” rather than a fresh start is a good process.
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