Entrepreneurs can help accelerate change in education

Björn Söderqvist, flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0
Björn Söderqvist, flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0

As a parent and a social entrepreneur, I have become increasingly concerned about the current state of education and the global learning crisis we are facing. While achieving systemic change seems like a daunting task, let us consider the power of small steps taken every day by a critical mass of people.

I strongly believe that education is everybody’s responsibility. “Fixing” education should not be regarded as the teacher’s or the policymaker’s job. Preparing our children for the future is too big a challenge and too important a task to be placed on the shoulders of a small group of people. Solving the global learning crisis requires policymakers, educators, researchers, designers, parents, communities, and entrepreneurs to come together and prototype bold new approaches to education.

“I strongly believe that education is everybody’s responsibility. ‘Fixing’ education should not be regarded as the teacher’s or the policymaker’s job.”

When it comes to redefining what 21st century education should be and how to deliver it, entrepreneurs have a lot to offer. This is why, after being part of a Silicon-Valley based startup for five years, I founded We Are Play Lab as a nonprofit, interdisciplinary network dedicated to accelerating change in early childhood education.

Entrepreneurs fearlessly challenge the status quo

Entrepreneurs can turn long-standing beliefs upside down and reframe the questions society is asking.

If the goal is to rear our children so that they can fulfill their potential and become competent and caring citizens of tomorrow’s world, and if the way to get there is by equipping them with a broad range of 21st century skills and a lifelong-learning mindset, then the question to ask is this: “How do we create accessible, affordable and effective learning opportunities beyond formal education?”

In search of answers, We Are Play Lab has been creating participative design interventions aimed at transforming ordinary places into extraordinary 21st century learning opportunities for every child.

Entrepreneurs like to think big and move fast

Entrepreneurs love to solve complex problems and identify opportunities where others may see only threats. Thinking and acting in an agile and iterative way, they are able to build innovative, low-cost solutions at scale.

Social entrepreneurs also recognize that many of today’s challenges are interdependent. They see transforming education as a way of creating positive loops to address other societal issues, such as healthcare, the future of work and sustainable living, thereby helping to create a prosperous future for all of humankind.

“Solving the global learning crisis requires policymakers, educators, researchers, designers, parents, communities, and entrepreneurs to come together and prototype bold new approaches to education.”

Entrepreneurs do not fear failure

Entrepreneurs do not mind being the most ignorant person in a room; indeed, they thrive when collaborating with people who are more knowledgeable than they are. One of the first things I did when I started We Are Play Lab was to reach out to Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a world-class researcher from the science of learning who is doing amazing work on transforming cities into learning landscapes. It was important for me to learn early on what science is telling us about raising successful children and to understand how humans learn best.

Above all, entrepreneurs will not let fear of failure stand between them and solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. They persistently pursue their vision and inspire others to do the same.

The mission of the We Are Play Lab Foundation is to empower children by equipping them with the skills, attitudes and knowledge they need to thrive in a fast-paced, increasingly complex world. To achieve this goal, We Are Play Lab elevates the public discourse concerning the range of skills needed in the 21st century and supports parents, educators, and communities in an effort to transform ordinary places into extraordinary educational opportunities, through playful learning. Informed by global research from the science of learning, and together with the key stakeholders in the life of children, We Are Play Lab is creating effective, convenient and affordable new ways to deliver 21st century education.

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