The magic behind setting up a play-based preschool

as presented in IPSEF, Dubai, on September 2016

Advertisements

Spotlight on John Yiannoudis, Co-Founder, Owner and Director of Dorothy Snot Pre-School

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-8-57-59-pm You are speaking at IPSEF Design and Build, what helped you decide to participate?

Middle East is a fast growing area in all aspects and IPSEF brings together powerful school people. We are a well-established play-based pre-school, currently evaluating the potential for international expansion of our concept.
UAE is a region we are mostly interested, so I thought speaking in IPSEF would be a great opportunity to present our education philosophy education in a broad audience and meet interesting people that could be potentially turned into valued partners.

Why did you get involved in Education?

I‘m a business guy and have spent almost 20 years working in top financial management positions of Greek enterprises. Five years ago I decided to exclusively work on developing our family preschool into a world class education business, mainly for two reasons:

a) education is an industry adding so much value in a society. It’s so much more self-fulfilling to assist in raising strong children, than to merely achieve some financial objectives for a bunch of private business shareholders.

b) business-wise, I understand education as an industry lacks entrepreneurship. Most school owners and directors have strong education background but rather weak business sense and strive to innovate, which prevents them from achieving the most out of their efforts. I believe I can assist into transforming our unique and very successful free education model into a world class leader, maintaining at the same time its exceptional educational aspects.

What are you currently working on?

The last five years we strengthened the position of our Dorothy Snot pre-school in Greece and developed a strong and exceptionally working education philosophy.
Beginning Fall 2016 and for the next five years, our effort will be to transform our Life-derived Learning concept on play based education, into a top class model for pre-schools & kindergartens and manage to expand our international presence.

What project would you have liked to work on?

I would have loved having been actively involved somehow into redesigning the education system of my country, Greece. I believe we have been doing it all wrong for the last decades and I’m sure I could be of great help. Of course, that means to be involved in politics, which is not either a short or a long term goal for me!

Who is your inspiration?

Out of the several people I could mention, both from business and education world, I will stick to my good friend and mentor Tom Hobson, the famous “Teacher Tom” from Seattle. He has been a constant source of inspiration to me, both on his writings and sayings on how to respect the will and enforce the freedom of very young children, in early education. I just love him!

What is the greatest challenge within your role?

My greatest daily challenge is to make sure that our school keeps progressing and innovating, without leaving behind our main goal: making sure that children are the real owners of their school life!

What 1 thing would improve your working life?

Having more human resources with a deep understanding of our philosophy and vision and thus being able to undertake serious parts of my daily administrative and business developing role. But, I’m working on that!

What 3 things do you see as being the focus of Middle East education over the next five years?

1. The effort of developing an education philosophy of its own, in all levels. A more tailor-made approach to the special needs and challenges of this fast growing area, maintaining at the same time a high quality level of services.

2. To remain capable of integrating effectively the constantly growing numbers of young population, both expats and locals, without being affected by any geopolitical uncertainties.

3. The effort of moving towards more joyful and free education models, compared to the rather disciplined and rigid philosophy we mainly see today (especially in early education)

How do you relax?

Running, reading, hiking, travelling. Being a happy school owner however, makes it some times difficult to separate completely private life from school’s active community!

Which 3 industry people would you like to invite to dinner?

Apart from my good friend Teacher Tom, whom I have the chance to dine with pretty often (!!):
1. Dr. Peter Gray, a man I greatly respect and admire
2. Sir Ken Robinson, because his famous 2006 TED speech on “school killing creativity” triggered millions of people around the world to start thinking what is wrong with our established education system
3. Dr. Abdulla Al Karam, Head of KHDA, in order to have the chance to discuss in detail his vision and plans regarding Dubai’s education future

Come and hear John’s talk at
IPSEF Middle East on September 28, 2016

You can read John’s career biography here

visit our website
IPSEF Middle East

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-9-00-27-pm

Is Tech taking Edu?

While attending GESS 2016 education exhibition in Dubai last week, I was once more hit by the extensive use of technology in schools, nowadays.

DSC00056

I’d dare to say almost 90% of exhibited stuff was somehow tech related. Never in my life before I’ve seen so many 3D printers working together and so many robots roaming around, at the same time. Absolutely impressive!

DSC00011

But, wait a moment. GESS 2016 was an education event, right? Not a tech show. So, why so much about technology?

Well, I’m the last person in the education world to claim that tech world should be out of schools. On the contrary: despite running a play-based curriculum in our preschool, we welcome and enforce the use of technology.

DSC00023

But, that use of technology arising from children own needs and ideas and aiming to add real value in class. And that means, to assist children in their life-derived inquiries, not to dominate those inquiries or transform their mud-hole play into a virtual playground!

DSC00060

Let’s be honest with ourselves. As GESS 2016 proved once more, contemporary education storybook is mainly written by the tech companies’ point of view. And this is the book societies gladly buy at the end of the day. Why? Because, technology companies dominate the universe and own the big money – while schools don’t.

DSC00019

Two years ago n IPA 2014 conference in Istanbul, I was eager to discuss this issue with many wise play gurus from all over the world. Their sayings were enlightening: tech companies die to captivate their users from as early age as possible. By managing to lower kid’s entry point in tech world just by one year, they can make billions of extra money yearly on phones, tablets, games and the similar. Is there any better way to achieve that than entering schools, early on?

Their strategy is well known: on the one hand, societies are getting terrorized on the dangers of letting children play freely, outdoor, unattended & taking their own risks. And on the other hand, societies are over-bombed regarding the urge for constant tech advancement and children’s future capability to compete.

DSC00030

All we early education people know the result: instead of raising generations of happy children freely playing, we end up with stressful children coping with complicated numerical tests, in front of a screen.

I say again: technology is a good thing for education. However, education is so much more than tech. Learning how to code, for example, is fantastic, no doubt it teaches children a concrete way of thinking. But, education is more than learning the technical stuff, no?

DSC00059

Education is actually a continuous process through which societies nurture citizens capable of managing their own lives, learning to depend on their own will and being able to adapt in changing environment on a solid and constructive way – both for themselves and for the benefit of the society. Education is more of a continuous & balanced self-advancement process than a mere learning of facts. And is highly dependable on the human factor.

DSC00058

So, my point is the following and is loud and clear: we, educators and school people, should keep writing the education story on our point of view and not on the one of the governments and of the marketers.

We need to keep finding new ways of improving children’s ability to progress on their own feet and on their own judging will. Keep helping them become strong, independent and self-confident citizens and develop a genuine interest on how to discover their very own life path. Keep observing kids in no prejudice as they grow, understanding their needs and respecting their unique pace.

Technology can definitely be a good tool to achieve the above, in a school. But is neither the only, nor the most important one.

We, people responsible for educating young children will always be the critical factor on how things move, in school. Not the printers or the robots…

Great teachers will keep inspiring kids and families by their paradigm and their passion.

Bad teachers will keep demotivating by their incompetence and lack of interest. But in that case, they can still blame the machine…

 

(by John Yiannoudis, co-owner and director of Dorothy Snot preschool)