“Why didn’t you go to work for Google?” someone asked after I graduated from computer engineering. I had gone into banking. When I graduated in 1998, Google was just being incorporated as a private company and technology talent primarily existed in the West. In 2011 that’s different, and that’s a good thing. Many new career opportunities are created every day. Technology isn’t confined to Silicon Valley. People from Turkey and around the World are inventing solutions to solve global problems. It is a tremendous opportunity. And, it all starts with education.
The education of future generations is so important. Randomly, we leave behind a whole group of children, whose talents are wasted and dreams are unrealized because they do not have equal access to quality education. Underutilisation of human potential is extremely costly. For individuals, this has a direct and serious impact on their lives: they are more likely to drop out of school, be unemployed or earn a dramatically lower income during their lifetime. For the world, the cost is not only to the economy. It is also in terms of missed opportunities, great inventions, entrepreneurs and leaders.
So, how do we prepare all children for an unpredictable future with the skills that will enable them to fulfill their potential? Passing on mere facts isn’t helpful. Creativity, critical thinking and collaboration become key to effectively recognizing and solving problems. It is a bit like learning to think like an entrepreneur or an inventor.
What if every child had the chance to learn these skills? What if we engaged the most skilled to help accomplish this? Those thoughts are what inspired me to leave a career in banking and become a social entrepreneur. I am the founder of ‘Words to Inspire’Words to Inspire, an educational charity based in the UK. We envisage a world in which all children and young people have access to quality education and are inspired towards achieving their dreams. We believe that engaging skilled individuals in solving the most difficult problems in their community can be powerful and it can be done sustainably by creating a win-win situation for everyone involved.
I have a passion to give back to the community that educated me, so Turkey became our first country of operation. Although Turkey has made significant progress, many children are still falling behind. Only 7% of the lowest socioeconomic quartile has a chance to go to a school that provides world class education. Furthermore, half of the 15 year-old have not acquired critical life skills due to drop outs or achievement gap.
Our vision with our first project ‘Develop to Learn’ is to establish a free, world class, interactive digital library. We engage local university students through their final year projects in developing digital games that advance children’s ability to imagine, experiment and collaborate. Given the major initiative by the government to give every student a tablet computer within the next three years, this digital library has the potential to reach and transform the lives of 16 million children in K-12 education. Additionally, the project advances university students employability skills through engagement in a real project.
Human talent is extraordinary when it is nurtured. It is true that immediate needs like food and shelter are critical to a child’s well-being. We need, however, to aim higher and provide all children with equal opportunity to uncover their full potential. That will empower us to create a future full of hope for all of us. All we need is a small action from each individual to start the ripple effect. Let’s get it started…