The majority of educational institutions in the Arab world rely on age-old methods of teaching, regardless of what century we're in. Advancements in the system have not yet taken ground in the region as school curricula continue to focus on rote learning while seldom encouraging exploration or independent research.
In our classrooms, unfortunately, there's no space for critical thinking or innovation. Cramming pupils with information so they can pass exams is in no way preparing them for what lies ahead. Students are not exposed to real-world experiences or challenges and aren't taught vital skills that are needed for future job markets.
From business to technology, here are skills that are yet to be included in Arab school curricula:
Entrepreneurial skills that cover everything from budgeting to online marketing is one area of focus that should be taught at schools. Today's school students must learn concepts that'll allow them to take initiative, communicate well, come up with valuable ideas for products/services, and be able to creatively brand their ideas.
2. Artificial Intelligence/Automation
In a world that's increasingly being dominated by technological systems (hello, artificial intelligence!), it's crucial that the fundamentals of AI be introduced in school programs.
Understanding how AI works will not only widen the perspectives of students but will also prep them for job opportunities in the future. This is essential in a region where unemployment rates continue to rise among young people.
3. Critical Thinking Skills
The best educational programs are ones that "open up rich worlds that children can explore in their own ways, developing their interests with help rather than indoctrination."
These are systems that teach students to continuously ask questions instead of simply giving textbook answers.
Critical thinking is key, not only in the professional world but also in our personal lives, which is why it should be at the top of the list of skills that need to be taught at our schools.
4. Phenomenon-Based Learning Skills
Phenomenon-based learning "presents the idea that students should learn about real-world issues and topics, rather than simply individual subjects."
This method is currently taught in Finnish schools and provides students "the tools that they need to function in the real world."
Discussing the progress of the system at Finland's "Schools of the Future," researcher Tan Wee Kwang said it teaches students concepts they'll actually implement in the real world.
"The last time I checked, I never needed to know how many sides a parallelogram has, except maybe when I am watching Jeopardy. Topics used in phenomenon-based learning can be on any world idea that is important and relevant such as how to make a budget, how to file taxes, or how to understand democracy," he said.
5. Computer Coding
You basically can't build or run a website, video game, or any application if you don't know how to code.
Given that the future is entwined with these kinds of technologies, schools in the Arab world should be attempting to expose students to the basics of coding and computer programming.
Computer coding will create millions of job opportunities in the future, so integrating such classes into school curricula will give students a major boost at an early age.
6. Creative Technology Skills
Teaching students how to use computers and other tech devices is important, but it's also vital to inspire them to use them creatively.
How can that be done? For starters, encouraging students to create their own media is one way. So, instead of having students submit handwritten English papers, all course assignments could be shared on a blog created by the students themselves.
Teaching them how to use the digital world for offline activism is another way instructors can guide kids into using tech for the better. This can also be done by providing them with the knowledge they need to build their own advanced technologies.
As the world advances, more opportunities are demanding individuals think outside of the box. But, if things continue at this pace, Arab students will lag far behind their peers in terms of innovation.
This is a vital skill that can only be acquired through activities and hands-on learning environments. Inventiveness needs to be practiced, it can't be taught by throwing textbooks at students and asking them to memorize entire pages by heart.
This is a survival skill that is overlooked in the region's educational system, despite the fact that it's needed in all aspects of life.
Expecting children to succeed in the real world without teaching them how to effectively communicate and negotiate their ideas - business or otherwise - is far-fetched at best, and naive at worst.
Negotiation is an art that needs to be taught at schools in order to create a generation that can diplomatically handle any situation.
STEP Group's Dreamers program will add what's lacking
Having supported thousands of entrepreneurs in the region by playing a key role in the startup scene, we at STEP Group are going the extra mile to spread the entrepreneurship culture among children and teens. To do so, we created Dreamers, a platform dedicated to empowering children to become the innovators of the future.
Among the platform's first initiatives is a summer camp that will be held in Dubai later this month. Dreamers Camp welcomes kids aged 8 to 18 years to gain hands-on knowledge about future industries and technology, space exploration, along with the foundations of entrepreneurship. The program combines theory and practice in an experimental setting - all with the help of successful entrepreneurs and professionals who will, with no doubt, offer valuable insight to those attending.
*Disclaimer: Dreamers is a brand owned by STEP Group, the parent company of StepFeed.