The Curriculum has been running since 2016, preparing students for the 21st century. Rohan Roberts, Innovation Leader at GEMS X, explains
We live in a world of accelerating change brought about by exponential technologies. New inventions and innovations are disrupting all aspects of human life. Genetics, nanotechnology, robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing and other digital technologies are changing the landscape of society and having a significant impact on the job market.
In an effort to prepare our students to adapt to this rapidly changing world and to give them access to the most cutting-edge educational programmes, GEMS Education and Singularity University co-created and launched the Global Futures Curriculum (GFC) in 2016-17. Singularity University is a Silicon Valley think tank that offers educational programmes and a business incubator. It focuses on scientific progress and “exponential” technologies. It was founded in 2008 by Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil at the NASA Research Park in California, United States.
The GFC enables students to leverage exponential technologies to succeed and excel in the 21st century. It also provides students with the insight, conceptual framework and tools to understand and succeed in a rapidly changing society. More specifically, it provides students with:
- Deep intellectual insight into a range of exponential technologies (such as artificial intelligence, digital biology and robotics)
- Conceptual frameworks for discussing the positive and potentially negative implications of these technologies, for society and for them as individuals
- A “tool kit” centred on design and critical thinking that will help students to make more informed career decisions
- An appreciation of the extent to which both technically and non-technically minded students can leverage technologies and thinking when addressing some of society’s greatest challenges.
The GFC programme is now in its fourth year at GEMS Education. Twenty-eight schools in the GEMS network currently offer the programme to over 6,000 students at no extra cost. This year, GEMS is piloting a primary school version of the programme, led by GEMS Education’s innovation, research and development arm, GEMS X, developed in collaboration with innovation leaders and curriculum experts from 34 schools.
Schools offer the programme in different ways: some offer it as part of their enrichment lessons or zero period, while others offer it as an after-school activity. The programme allows for a great deal of flexibility depending on the requirements of the school. Students who learn the GFC are in a stronger position to take part in the Global Innovation Challenge, an annual competition that encourages students to leverage exponential technologies to solve the grand challenges facing humanity.
The curriculum has helped GEMS students with essential design and critical thinking skills development, offering them a better understanding of future thinking and its application, as well as the difference they can make in the world.
Charvi Sharma, a GFC alum from The Winchester School – Jebel Ali, says, “I like how the programme prepares us for the future and gives us a clear idea about the technologies which could help us in creating solutions in the real world.”
The collaboration between GEMS Education and Singularity University to create this programme is the first of its kind in the world. Singularity University is a global community of entrepreneurs, corporations, development organisations, governments, investors and academic institutions using emerging technologies to tackle the world’s biggest challenges. Their learning and innovation platform empowers individuals and organisations with the mindset, skillset and network to build breakthrough solutions that leverage these technologies, and their mission is to educate, inspire and empower leaders.
The technological singularity that Ray Kurzweil talks about is a point in the future where exponentially growing technologies will usher in an age of greater-than-human intelligence and an increasing merger between biological and artificial intelligence.
When artificial systems become trillions of times more powerful than human brains and when they learn to communicate with each other in ways we didn’t programme them to, that’s when we’ll see the technological singularity — the technological equivalent of the biological Cambrian explosion.
All this will have an even more dramatic impact on the human condition, when quantum computing combines with AI and when that in turn combines with robotics. The question for us now is, what do we teach our students in schools? What should we educate them for? These are precisely the sort of questions the GFC seeks to address.