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Innovation & education, why are we failing?

Updated: Apr 3

Innovation doesn’t happen in isolation it happens when people cross paths make connections and contribute to a shared effort. When all this happens in a particular place it creates an ecosystem where innovations flourish. We see this in Silicon Valley with business visionaries, tech experts & venture capitalists coming together to produce innovations that are transforming our world. Furthermore in Boston where medical researchers teaching hospitals and biotechnology developers build on one another’s discoveries to advance the frontiers of health 


Economies call these concentrations interconnected people in institutions innovation clusters – this way of working is the new normal and it has led to remarkable changes. But too often people in the world of education people are still trapped in their bubble without a chance to connect and share with partners. 


What if we could build an ecosystem that helped the education stakeholders connect and brought them together with new people, ideas, and voices? To expand what’s possible in education that’s the idea behind education innovation clusters or Ed-clusters for short.


What are Ed-clusters?


Ed-clusters are collaborative communities where educators, entrepreneurs, researchers, funders, and other community stakeholders work together to design test, and share promising tools and practices. Together they form an ever-evolving ecosystem to support and spread innovation. Across the United States regions are forming ed clusters to shape the future of teaching and learning in the places they call home.


School districts tech companies and learning researchers are working together to do rapid cycle product evaluations. Foundations are supporting networks of schools, museums, libraries, and community centers to expand learning opportunities anywhere anytime. Teacher colleges in school districts and regional development agencies are partnering to prepare students to be community problem solvers and help rebuild local economies.


Why do we fail to come up with our own?


Alright… Now that I have put this fancy “made in the USA” approach let's compare it to what we have here.

Our approach to innovation is quite vague, we talk about it a lot, really a lot. However, the chronology of our actions does not always match. The main reason for that is – short-term thinking and aspiration for quick wins do not lead to long-term positive results.


For years I have been hearing re-creation of a Silicon Valley ecosystem. That idea is a failure at the start because every community & nation is unique. We cannot simply detach an approach and recreate it without major adjustments.


There is a reason I brought to your attention ed-clusters. I have pointed out on many occasions that the main factor that is creating a bottleneck for Azerbaijan’s innovation & non-oil industry diversification is education. 


It is not just about the quality of education (sadly it is the case as well) but also about how up-to-date the educational system & how it interacts with the industry (both public and private).

We simply cannot aim at copying ecosystems that took decades to recreate. No matter how you look at it the pinnacle of Silicon Valley is Stanford. In my opinion, we should focus more on replicating and adjusting best-practiced educational systems and instruments. We should focus on re-inventing our education & aim at creating thousands of scientists, doctors, teachers & most importantly engineers.


As a first step, I would start (as a pilot program) by introducing new courses starting from the school where children are taught 


  • Soft skills

  • Communication

  • Teamwork

  • Problem-solving

  • Critical thinking

  • Decision-making

  • Coding skills 

  • Engineering


Further on re-deploy this approach at other locations as well as expand it, adjust it & build up on it.


Sad to recognize that our educational system is outdated, nonetheless we have to remember that the roots of education are bitter but the fruit is always sweet.


Pura Vida

Rashad

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