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“A Student is Much More Than a Test Score”

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Genny Ghanimeh, the CEO and Founder of Mind Cloud Academy and Mind Cloud Tribe, speaks about how the pandemic has affected the education sector, the opportunities present in the region, and the rise of STEM

How has the pandemic affected the education sector in the region?
I follow up very closely on the education and the edtech sector and one of the major ways I see the pandemic has impacted the education sector, not only regionally but also globally, is in that standardized tests (such as SAT, O-Levels, and A-Levels, and so on) were no longer possible.

The pandemic has only accelerated a paradigm shift that had just started in the education industry; which is to move away from standardized testing. In the past few years, more and more universities have started dropping standardized test scores as a requirement for admission, mainly because they realized that a student is much more than a test score. The pandemic only accelerated this movement but also made it profoundly obvious that we currently do not have an effective alternative to replace standardised testing.

What sort of opportunities do you see in the regional education sector?
Based on the previous observation I just made, I believe that there is a real opportunity in the regional education sector to lead the way in finding a viable alternative to standardized testing. One of the young EdTech startups with whom we are working closely at the academy, “AffeqtEDU” has been working on exactly that.

They have a radically new, but very effective approach to combine education with data analytics and cloud computing. Their patented technology promises not only to replace the need for standardized testing but also to provide insights about the quality of education and level of achievement of the students in ways that standardized testing could never match. I personally see a big potential in that and hope that we can pioneer the way through with them.

STEM has risen as the go-to stream of education during the pandemic. What importance does STEM have in developing the skillsets of a student?
This is a big topic close to my heart. STEM is great of course but so incomplete if we want the kids to develop into our future innovators. I worked closely with kids and high schoolers to teach them entrepreneurial skills, and we also discovered that this was incomplete. The future of jobs is changing very quickly, most of the jobs as we know them won’t exist anymore by 2030-2040 and the education system will need to be revamped completely for that.

What we do know at this stage is that we need to teach kids additional skills like critical thinking for themselves, mental toughness, creative problem solving, conceptual visualisation, and being visionary. Without expanding a lot on all this, basically, we need to supplement STEM with the Liberal Arts and Entrepreneurship if we want real visionary innovators in the future – which is what we need to go through that transition of the future jobs.

In short, Art will help kids visualize and conceptualise anything from another point of view, Philosophy will teach them to become critical thinkers or at the least think for themselves, Entrepreneurship teaches Creative Problem Solving and being Visionary. So imagine adding all this to the Math, Tech, Sciences, and Engineering, we will get kids to be so much more creative and find their own talents and passion.

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