I was attending the Gulf Education Supplies Show – GESS Dubai 2020 event in late February to launch the International Kids Film Festival in the Middle East region. I have been visiting the event for over a decade now, and I now have a sense of what to expect from these events. The stalls are mostly of ed-tech companies that come up with novel ways of teaching children through their software and innovative hardware. There is a big trend of AR, VR, XR, 3D and many other new media initiatives in education. The challenge though is that all these innovations base their foundation on the fact that teachers will use them effectively in the classroom and the onus is actually on the teacher to scale up their skill sets if they have to implement any of these technologies.
Going through the plethora of stalls, were a myriad mix of educators and education industry professionals from several Asian and African countries. As always, it was a pleasure to meet and interact with educators from such diverse backgrounds and share the innovative idea of Film Pedagogy. What came out universally through all these interactions is that children today don’t like to read and write, and the faster we come to terms with this fact, the better it is for us. The world today speaks the visual language, and visual storytelling is the way of communication today and in future. Kids today are not just interested in consuming content; they want to create content, and to this end, the idea of film making and visual communication resonated with the educators unanimously.
An educator came up to me and asked me a question – if I were to pick up one innovation from the event and go all out to implement it in my schools, what is the one I would do and the one that will have the most significant impact on the overall development of children. I had no doubt in my mind about the answer; if I were to run a school, I would completely rewrite the manner in which I teach about health and well-being for children. Every time an educator talks about overall development, it is surprising that they rarely bring health into the equation and even if they do, it is limited to exposure to sports. The idea of health and well-being is not on top of the minds of educators, curriculum planners and school managements. What is the point of overall development when our kids are not healthy?
If we give a closer look at the statistics provided by health bodies world over, the situation is more than alarming. For the first time in centuries, we will have the next generation that will not live as long as our generation. The number of chronic ailments that are all set to be part of our normal lives is alarming. Sports is not well-being; it is physical activity. We need to educate our kids on a war footing on the importance of well-being of the body and the mind – the importance of sleep, food water and physical activity. If we genuinely believe in overall development, a health and wellness program is what we should invest on, and all other innovations can wait.
While I write this article, schools in the Middle East are being closed as a precaution due to the Corona Virus scare. This epidemic that is scaring the world is another reminder that as a society, health has to be the precedence above all other necessities that we aim to provide our kids. For an educational institution, health and well-being is the first step to overall development.