Arc Skills, the world’s first lifelong learning company, has developed a unique gamified programme to teach a comprehensive set of 21st century skills in UAE schools, and it is showing its first, extremely positive, results. Every one of the 1,200 children taught across nine UAE schools – including Our Own English High School, Al Ain; GEMS Modern Academy; and GEMS New Millennium – has developed new competencies through the programme.
The UAE-based company’s SOAR Skills 21 programme utilises engaging team activities, interactive quizzes, technology and gamification to immerse students in an alternate world of superheroes and supervillains to teach skills such as self-management, communication, collaboration and problem solving.
In a post-programme survey of 200 UAE students who completed Skills 21, 85% said they prefer the elements of gamified learning over traditional learning, while 90% said the game immersed them in the learning. Every student surveyed said they felt they had learnt something new about themselves and acquired new skills.
Skills 21 is the middle school programme of Arc Skills’ SOAR Pathway – which takes students from grade 1 to graduation, progressively teaching them a range of values, virtues, skills, and careers.
The SOAR Skills 21 programme begins with training teachers to deliver it in schools and to date 87 teachers have been trained in the UAE.
Students engage in their own time with weekly online modules including reading and quizzes that familiarise them with the 21 competencies of Skills 21. In class, as a team, students must strategise to progress and win a game based around fictional heroes and villains without teacher guidance or intervention. Meanwhile, the teacher observes their use of the 21 competencies they’ve learnt, awarding individual students with game points and badges when seen. The teacher will then lead the class in reflecting on the activity and how children can improve.
The programme grows skills unique to each child, with children on average developing 8-12 skills each. By having teachers reward skills based only on demonstrable use in class, it helps students understand what skills come naturally to their character and how to develop strengths and weaknesses.
Over 4,500 students have been taught across nine countries, with plans to expand the programme into more jurisdictions. Operating in the US, Argentina, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia, as well as the UAE, it’s the first-time gamification has been used to teach a single standardised programme to build soft skills essential for the modern job market across a wide range of cultures, economies and curricula.
Arc Skills’ efforts are designed to help young people adapt to a rapidly changing job market by equipping them with a set of skills that will be relevant no matter how the world of work evolves.
This is crucial as while technological advances are creating new jobs and industries, many existing jobs are increasingly coming under threat by the rise of automation and AI. An Oxford University study found that in the coming years, almost half of all currently existing jobs in the US could be replaced by machines. A study by McKinsey and Company also showed that 45% of jobs in the Middle East are technically automatable today, which could result in the loss of 20.8 million full-time employees and $366.6 billion in wage income.
Mithun Kamath, Group CEO of Arc Skills, said:
“With automation transforming the way we work, it’s crucial that young people today are skilled to work in ways machines cannot with the flexible faculties to move with the pace of change. Our education system cannot be there to produce more robots, but creative, engaged, critically thinking human beings who have the capacity not just to survive in a world of work changing faster than ever before, but thrive in it.
The successes we’ve seen in using gamification to train students in 21st century skills in the UAE gives us the hard evidence we need to expand our programme into other countries where young people are facing similar challenges in a rapidly changing job market.”
A UAE parent said:
“I have seen a change in my child’s behaviour since this programme as she has become more respectful and conscious of what she says and in actions towards others. So it is definitely helping her to think better.”
A UAE student said:
“I learnt a lot about how the real-world works. In school, we don’t know about the real world and how things happen… we learn biology, history, geography. But in Skills 21 we got to experience everything that happens outside.”
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