To Prepare Young People for 21st-Century Jobs, Design Classrooms Beyond Walls

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This article originally appeared on World Policy Institute

Walk into the small town where Actonville Primary School (APS) is located in South Africa and you may find yourself in the middle of a dance competition, an emotional and physical well-being checkup, or a community gathering—all planned and managed by primary-school students. At APS, students create and oversee “community heart and soul” days like these on a regular basis and nurture partnerships with more than 30 local organizations to offer services to the school and the wider community.

Just like APS, schools and social entrepreneurs in many African countries are redesigning education by offering hands-on experiences during the school year and, in many cases, asking students to apply what they are learning in the classroom to solve community problems. These opportunities reduce the likelihood that students will become disaffected by an education they find irrelevant. They do not have to wait for future internships or apprenticeships to gain real-world experience.

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Schools that use this approach create accountability by ensuring that the curriculum supports the development of transferable knowledge and is applicable to projects outside the classroom walls. Changing classroom design to include problem solving in real-world settings makes a difference. This approach to education and skills development is creating a generation of prepared, skilled, and resilient youth who leave school with useful work experience.

There are two important principles that social innovators employ to effectively design classrooms that better prepare young people for successful livelihoods:

  1. Structuring hands-on team experiences that require problem solving
  2. Identifying creative financing models to make hands-on classroom experiences possible