Expert Q & A | Anne-Marie Kee

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Q: What skills are companies of the new economy looking for? 

A: According to research conducted last year by the McKinsey management consulting company, 70 percent of the executives surveyed named innovation as one of their top three priorities for driving growth. The report also revealed that the vast majority of these senior people lamented that there is no process in place to manage innovation efforts, and therefore felt that one of their most vital priorities did not have a way of succeeding in their companies. Roger Martin's program at the Rotman School of Management, which emphasizes his theories on "design thinking," creativity and innovation intertwined with the more traditional MBA subjects, was recently cited in the New York Times as producing the graduates who were highly sought after because they were succeeding where others could not–in helping companies achieve their innovation goals.

Q: How will teaching change?

A: We cannot afford to stand still in the areas of program innovation and approaches to teaching and learning that break the mould and respond to the growing chorus of expert voices that are telling us that we need to be teaching our students differently so that they can thrive in a vastly different society than the one we understood growing up. As Sir Ken observed in his now-famous TED conference speech, ("Do Schools Kill Creativity?"), in a world the future of which we cannot predict, we must be educating children profoundly differently, placing creativity in the same status as literacy. His argument is that education systems often stigmatize mistakes, which has the effect of educating our children out of their natural creativity–you need to make mistakes, take risks, be prepared to be wrong to be creative.

Q: How can schools introduce the pedagogical changes needed?

A: We tend to get stuck in our paradigms. We often don't even realize that we are propagating a truth that no longer exists. Shaking off the blinders requires that we become uncomfortable, be revealed as perhaps not knowing the answers and be more inclined to listen than to speak. In short, as leaders in education, we need to reacquaint ourselves with our own creativity.

Q: Is there a school out there that offers an innovative and individualized program?

A: California's High Tech High is without question, far along the path of developing just such a school. It is based on three design principles: personalization, adult-world connection and common intellectual mission. Twelve thousand people have visited the campus since 2006 to see how they are doing it. But here's the rub–this is a brand new school. It is arguably easier to build than renovate.

Q: Where can existing schools find the resources to make the shifts that encourage innovation, creativity and critical thinking?

A: Some of our schools have been around since Confederation, and our challenge is to change these current schools. There is no question that education leaders throughout Canada are ambitiously pursuing this track. CAIS (Canadian Accredited Independent Schools) is a new national organization that is committed to ongoing improvement, excellence and innovation in education. By pulling together and pooling the immense talent we are so fortunate to have in the independent school community, we have an opportunity to be world leaders in delivering education that is designed for the 21st century and beyond.

—Anne-Marie Kee
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