By Ryan Findley

Outside of the U.S.—outside the debates around controversial Secretary of Education nominees, mismanaged charter schools and the Common Core—lays a literal world of education that is uncontroversial, well-managed and anything but common. Outside of the everyday hubbub of U.S. education, innovative educators from across the world are redesigning schools and systems to address local and global needs, whether it be sustainability in Bali or poverty in rural South Africa. Amongst a myriad of specialized independent schools cropping up around the world, one of the most interesting trends has been the coalescence around two common threads: leadership and entrepreneurship.

For global educators—as well as the students in their classes and the parents supporting them (often with schools’ fees paid directly to the school)—the reason for foci in leadership and entrepreneurship is clear: the status quo is untenable and without dedicated effort the status quo will not change fast enough.  Whether facing failed political states, cultural practices that rob girls of their education, or economies that can’t produce a job for every graduate that their schools produce (to name a few global challenges), there is an immediate need to fast track the development of ethical leaders and opportunity-creating entrepreneurs.

Not surprisingly to those who track innovation trends, the combination of a deeply felt need, creative people, flexible environments, and a willingness to experiment has borne some impressive school models. Among some of the most exciting schools championing leadership and entrepreneurship globally are:

  • Avasara Academy (India)—Endeavoring to train India’s future female CEOs, politicians and change-agents, Avasara has honed in on leadership, entrepreneurship and India Studies as the most critical skills with which to equip their girls.
  • African Leadership Academy (South Africa)—Conceived to train the next generation of African leaders, ALA spends roughly 30% of its weekly schedule in “Entrepreneurial Leadership” class, an experiential, innovation-based class that enhances students’ teamwork and changemaking abilities.
  • African Leadership University (Mauritius, Rwanda)—Set to become the tech-savvy state school system of Africa, ALU requires every student to practice launching a venture/idea in their first year in order for students to get their feet wet in the world of entrepreneurship.
  • MPESA Foundation Academy (Kenya)—Created by one of Kenya’s largest foundations to serve the country’s poorest (yet highest achieving) students, the school has dedicated itself to implementing leadership and entrepreneurship courses alongside a rigorous national curriculum that rivals many U.S. prep schools.
  • LEAF Academy (Slovakia)—Imagined to create a “higher quality of life in Central Europe (by shifting) mindsets and behaviors of leaders,” the school partners students with local entrepreneurs to understand their problems and collaborate on projects to improve market share, create new product lines and even grow revenues.

Even in the U.S., avant-garde schools are bucking a status quo that they too find untenable.

  • St. Mark’s School (MA)—Carving out three weeks at the end of the school year, St. Mark’s created “Lion Term,” an experiential time during which students explore various elements of leadership and character development through self-directed projects.
  • Loomis Chaffee (CT)—Actively engaged in various training and development opportunities for their educators and students, Loomis Chaffee has recently co-created a workshop called Activating the Entrepreneurial Spirit, seeking to deploy entrepreneurial focused design thinking to learners.
  • Miss Porter’s School (CT)—Committed to meaningfully engaging every single student with the global world, MPS has reshuffled their calendar, raised money and sought partners in order to ensure that every student, regardless of ability to pay, is able to travel abroad. Prior to overseas experiences, MPS equips its young women with design thinking & social entrepreneurship acumen in order to improve learning outcomes.
  • Sidwell Friends (DC)—Setting the bar for excellence in regional studies, Sidwell has created an African Studies program that seeks to equip students with leadership skills through more dynamic, inclusive, and rigorous engagement with the world’s “next China.”

Globally, not all schools are blessed with per pupil funding that actually exceeds the GDP per capita of entire nations (Fact: Utah, the state with the lowest funding in the U.S., spends more per student than 83 countries in the world can claim in GDP per capita), yet global educators are gifted with an ability to think and work outside the rigid systems domestically. For the international schools listed above, great pains are taken to increase access for low income students, even creating forgivable loans and income sharing agreements that dramatically improve the ability of students to grasp opportunities which would otherwise be impossible.

As a result of their ability to operate in low friction environments, forward-thinking international schools serve as incubation labs for some of the most cutting-edge approaches to holistic education. Whether innovating in curriculum, application or access, they serve as the frontiersmen answering some of the world’s biggest challenges, modeling the very leadership and entrepreneurship they seek to inculcate in their own students.

Call to Action

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This blog is part of our #SmartPlanet series in partnership with Participate. Check out #SmartPlanet on engage in the conversation on social media. Head over to Participate.com to view and create lessons and join a community of educators to promote global education, in the U.S. and around the world.

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Ryan Findley is the Chief Learning Officer at African Leadership University School of Business. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanFindley


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