Interview with Dr. Ger Graus, Director of Education at Kidzania

 

Dr. Ger Graus, Director of Education and Partnerships Kidzania London

Dr. Ger Graus, Director of Education and Partnerships Kidzania

Why do you believe in Kidzania? What do you think it is adding to education?

Dr. Graus: There are several gaps that we fill. One is the learning gap in exploration, curiosity, research and fun. Our [UK] curriculum for many years now is a taught curriculum. When you have a national curriculum inevitably you have national content, which is quite prescriptive…A taught curriculum – and it is for other people to argue if it is the right thing or not, leaves little room for a curious curriculum, for an investigative curriculum, for a slightly quirky curriculum. I think we add this.

Secondly, if you talk to lots of youngsters and you ask them – “Why do you go to school”? – the answer you get is “because you make me”. So hopefully we add a little bit [more to that], because we are only a piece of the jigsaw, we are not the solution.

Thirdly, children can only aspire to what they know exists. And therefore I have always struggled with the idea that you would teach careers. My view has always been: you need to find out about careers and then make up your mind. So we need to put children in a position where they can do that. For example, I learned yesterday that one of the jobs at Renault is to make clay models of the prototype cars. If I had known that 25 years ago I would now be a clay model maker at Renault. 

Education solutions inevitably are thought within the lifespan of a parliament because politically you need to prove that you have achieved something. Some of this is much longer-term. The influence on Science/Tech/Engineering/Maths needs to be a two-prong attack: it needs to happen now and we need to take a very long-term view on it…through role modeling, through exciting projects, through out of school visits, through letting children experience and realize and through letting children being curious. So, for example, we are sitting here outside our automotive experience and of our employees here in the automotive experience, they are at least 50:50 male/female. Why? It is actually a very good thing to do in terms of modeling for children, almost subconsciously. If we take a long-term view on this, this becomes a behaviour. It becomes a culture and it becomes an expectation. So we are quite happy to contribute to the long-term view.

How did you tailor Kidzania to UK culture?

Dr. Graus: You know the colouring in books we have for little children? Somebody has already drawn the picture and then if I give it to 10 children I get 10 different representations. So Kidzania as a franchise, if I put it in 14 countries, I will get 14 different representations of that picture predominantly due to cultural differences in a broad sense. What we have done with the automotive industry is not what somebody else has done. So that is about the partners you work with and how you work with them. The manufacturing industry in the UK is quite an innovative bunch of people. Our experience with British Airways, our experience with Renault and with H&M, our offer here in the UK is probably quite different because we can be.

How does Kidzania help children in the long term?

Dr. Ger Graus: We are starting a foundation, the Longshot Kids Foundation (LSKF). It allows us to go beyond the Kidzania country. The Kidzania franchise takes us up until the age of 14, and the foundation will allow us to go 15, 16, 17 and older; so we can enter into the world of work experience, apprenticeships. It is part of a long-term strategy, talking about how the world of jobs changes and how it is important to show children what is out there: My grandfather had one job, he was a coal miner; my father had 2 jobs; I probably had 7; my son and daughter will be doing jobs that don’t even exist yet. Independence, adaptability and resilience are absolutely key to children’s future. It’s not just about knowing your English and knowing your Math. I am not dismissing it but I think we need to find a purpose for it. Resilience, adaptability and flexibility, self-confidence and courage will be incredibly important. If you are not curious, you are not going anywhere.

Discovering jobs in technology

Considering that many jobs now are related to digital marketing, e-commerce and technology, we asked Dr. Gaus if Kidzania London is planning to offer anything specifically related to coding and technology:

Dr. Graus: We will do. There are a good number of industry partners that we are talking to. But coding with a purpose, not for the sake of it. Again, we are back to the question “Why do you do it?” Do you do it to pass a test or do you do it because you need it in x or y profession that you want to pursue later on in life.