Where are Schools for the Real World?


I wish life were a multiple choice, Scantron Form 882-E test. I would crush it.

In my years of formal education, I became a rockstar of Scantron tests. After you had been through enough multiple choice exams, you almost didn’t have to know the subject to eliminate three of the answers. It was then down to the last two, so you at least had a 50/50 probability. Not bad! All you had to do was show up with a sharpened No. 2 pencil and make sure you had enough runway of clean eraser. I was always one of the first to hand in my form and skip out the door to freedom.

What happened to those cozy, green and white forms? Sadly, I have not held a slim one since college. They were surprisingly so rigid. I loved holding them horizontally as they defied gravity and never seemed to bend!

If only work had more Scantron Form 882-e’s, I would be amazingly wealthy and a lot of people would report into me.

Is that what my kids are learning? Seriously? Did we time travel ahead and forget to bring along schools, hospitals and government? What happened?

As a parent, I am naturally worried for my kids. Life unfortunately doesn’t reward perfect bubble decisions filled in on a Form 882-e. Parents today are caught in the middle of an exponential wave of innovation where knowledge will soon double every 12 hours. We are in the early stages of artificial intelligence, robotics, genomics, liquid biopsies, AR, VR, IoT and more. Innovation is only accelerating and spreading to every aspect of how we live, travel and transact.

How are we supposed to be preparing our kids again?

I think my main role as a parent is to ensure that my kids are appropriately prepared for the real world. I don’t want to drag my kids to a ton of random extra-curricular classes to “expose them” or push them for good grades in areas that may not be critical, interesting or relevant. I just want to provide my kids with an edge and the skills to succeed in the modern business world.

While the revolution in technology and biotechnology is thriving, our schools and students have been left far behind. For the most part, schools teach the same subjects and in a similar way as when I was a kid over 30 years ago. Not only are we not preparing our kids for the real world amidst a challenging economic environment, but we also end up burying parents and graduates under the added burden of student loans as a bonus for making students hate learning.

Why can’t we start today with practical training and thinking skills that matter in life rather than focusing on standardized test scores?

Education should prepare young people for jobs that do not yet exist, using technologies that have not yet been invented, to solve problems of which we are not yet aware. — Richard Riley (former US Secretary of Education)

Not that long ago, apprenticeships allowed 10–15 year olds to shadow a master for some years until the apprentice was able to go off on his/her own. Somewhere along the way we lost this kind of practical training.

We need to make sure that learning is stimulating enough so that our children actually grasp concepts and develop the confidence and lasting tools to survive in the world going forward. We need a modern environment with relevant curriculum led by hands-on domain experts to ensure that every day is impactful:

  1. Education should be relevant and impart practical skills for the real world.
  2. Learning should be challenging and inspirational, incorporating a personalized approach focused on a student’s interests and strengths.
  3. With accelerated progress in technology, education should provide exposure at an early age to new ways of thinking, the latest innovations, and collaboration with the real world.
  4. Strong communication and interpersonal skills are essential to nurture.
  5. Exposure to modern-day heroes, leaders and domain experts helps to improve motivation among students and provide a model for successful behavior.
  6. Learning an ethical framework to help guide action is fundamental.

I don’t want to wait until my kids are out of college to start their real world education. At a young age, I want them to be learning about nutrition, farming and cooking, mindfulness and meditation, sleep, wellness, nature, sustainability and clean resources, social impact, ethics and morals, triple bottom line, investing and saving, central banks and currencies, social and emotional intelligence, reading, listening, persuasive writing and speaking, starting and scaling businesses (and starting over or pivoting), basic legal principles, computer science and new ways of thinking and problem solving, 3D printing, tinkering and whatever else they are interested in (like DJ’ing or cartoon drawing).

Of course, as a parent I do as much as I can in this regard, but with school being a primary center of learning I would love for my kids to be inspired, challenged and trained for the real world ahead daily at school.

Hopefully, my kids will never get to know what a Form 882-e is.

This entry was posted in edtech, education, Schools for the Real World, Uncategorized by Ron Mahabir. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ron Mahabir

Ron Mahabir has been focused on major macro trends since the mid-1990’s when he began investing in early-stage Internet companies. In 1999, Ron moved to Tokyo to concentrate on the opportunity provided by the Asian Financial Crisis. He established the Japan office for Colony Capital, a Los Angeles based private equity group which has invested over US$39 billion. As President of Colony Japan, Ron oversaw the acquisition, management and disposition of corporate, non-performing loan and property transactions. In 2004, Ron foresaw the makings of a credit bubble and until late 2006 led an investment in and turnaround of the largest mortgage default communications company in North America, The Walz Group. Since acquisition, The Walz Group has experienced significant growth and was listed at #45 on the Inc. 5000 (2008). In anticipation of the largest emerging macro opportunity, the twin crises in resources and the environment, Ron co-founded Asia Cleantech Capital in late 2006. Based in Singapore, Asia Cleantech is focused on investment in clean forms of transportation and power for the Asia Pacific. Ron Mahabir graduated with honors from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.

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