Asma Gilani, principal, Our Own English High School, Sharjah. Image Credit: Supplied

I come from a time when pocket money was unheard of – neither was boredom. Tantrums were seldom thrown and if ever we did chose to play that card, it always went unnoticed. Summer holidays were spent at my grandma’s, where my cousins and I would spend hours waiting for the ice cream seller to come down the lane. Years after the taste of that much awaited sweet treat of lazy afternoons has slipped away from my mind; its memory still is fresh. Each time we asked grandma for money to buy ice cream she would give us huge bundles of newspaper to make paper bags and sell them to small time vendors for some pennies. We even made our own glue (or what is called ‘lai’ in Hindi) with flour and water at home. This exciting engagement not only kept us indoors during the dry and sultry hours of the day, but also made us more resourceful. Without knowing, we learnt team work and creativity. At that time, we didn’t see beyond the pennies we had earned but now I still look back and smile upon the wealth of experience it gave us.

While a good school will inevitably meet the academic requirements, it is also expected that the wider horizons of the school encompass, all aspects of quality education – to provide to the child the spirit of imagination and the joy of revelation, to act as a catalyst to refine sensitivity and perceptions, to enable the cultivation of social and moral values and also be prepared for the world of work.

To foster youth entrepreneurship in our society and discover tomorrow’s inventors, GEMS Education and Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority organised Makers Day which was truly a community celebration of innovation and creativity where students had to stretch and discover new boundaries. The Our Own English High School girls of Sharjah came up a lot of creative endeavors: the Recycle Runwaay dresses and bags made of used clothes, the Solar Car Project, the Walking Mobile Charger, Water Heater made of used plastic bottles, art work of students, jewelry designed by a student and another who baked cupcakes. My school took back trophies. We won the Best use of Recycled Materials trophy for the Recycle Runwaay project and the working model of a solar powered car designed by Nicola Ellane D’souza and S. Jayamathangi of Grade 8 won ‘The Most Innovative ‘Trophy. A well spent evening that added feathers to our cap, brought the students to a platform of recognition and taught them a lot of things like teamwork and patience while discovering their ownhidden talents – not a bad deal I would say!

Educational opportunities like these encourage and help the students to become flexible thinkers who are able to question existing thinking, adapt and creatively meet the demands of the future. Interaction with other students helps to widen their horizon to the universally accepted values and invokes self -development in that grid. They explore, research, investigate and communicate. They are better prepared for the challenges of tomorrow.

From where I see it, we are moving forward in some areas but there still is a gap between being educated and having learnt. There is a need to integrate Environment and entrepreneur skills into our curriculum so that students are prepared to manage resources wisely and develop the necessary skills that contribute to productive outcomes. Money management skills will enable students to develop planning and organizational skills to use resources wisely and thereby prepare them to face the future challenges effectively.

Let’s blend humour, creativity, recreation and knowledge into our curriculum. With an unfettered mind and riotous imagination, the children will grow with an open mind. They will show their creativity in the work they do. The various hues and vibrant colors of their personality will reflect in everything they do and they will be fearless of the future.

(Asma Gilani is Principal, Our Own English High School, Sharjah, and one of the winners of the 2012-13 Khalifa Award for Excellence in Education.)