“A single arrow is easily broken but not ten in a bundle” -Japanese Proverb
If I pointed at India thirty years ago and said they would be the world leaders in technology I would have been laughed at and considered a joke. If I pointed at China and said they would be leaders of industry twenty years ago I might have been sent to a mental asylum. It’s strange how some countries are just meant for some things. Their brains are wired in a specific way, or their bodies built in a certain shape. Their culture, work ethic, upbringing, family bonds, market conditions, and many other twists of fate along the evolutionary path led them to this point. They also must have government support and foresight, education, and most importantly a culture of cooperation and optimism.
This brings to mind the lack of local IT development in Bahrain. Although we have sporadic successful companies it could be so much more. As I walk the corridors of coaching and entrepreneurship of this tiny island I find many bright young minds with a lot of potential. I see pioneers with passion and a laptop, and groups of students with sizzling ideas. But I also see missing elements like an optimistic supportive fostering culture of encouragement and belief, and a strong pillar of technological education in our public schools. I also see a complete lack of interest to permeate the English language into the new generation of Bahrainis.
It’s a strange thing to see people support strangers but not have much encouragement for those close to them. It’s a very weird phenomenon, but it exists very strongly in Bahrain for some unexplainable reason. In Japan students are taught at a very early age to be responsible for their classroom and class-mates by working as a team and making sure their classroom and school are spotless. The success of the group depends on their ability to work together. Yes, there will also be jealousy and envy, but the Japanese have somehow managed to harness that into healthy competition with mutual respect; and have made the good of the group a priority to the good of the individual. That amazing culture is reflected in their technology and passion to be the best. The Indians are also a sharing community, and that non-competitiveness has allowed them to teach each other technology and it has spread like wildfire.
WE NEED TO INSTILL THESE KINDS OF IDEALS EARLY IN THE CLASSROOMS INSTEAD OF TEACHING DIVISIVE ISSUES THAT TAINT THE YOUNG GENERATION.
In my case, growing up in a private school in Bahrain luckily English was at the forefront, and all the subjects were in English: Math, physics, chemistry, history etc. The only subject in Arabic was Arabic. We grew up learning about the world through American eyes, and what a world it is. Most importantly today we can communicate with the globe on the same level, so when we talk to companies, entrepreneurs, bosses, or anyone else we speak the same language. We don’t simply grasp English, but we communicate at the same wavelength: The language of technology.
Furthermore, it’s easy to learn programming since all codes are in English. In the United States, elementary students are taught coding. Imagine, 7 or 8 years old writing in the language of computers. And the reason they teach it may surprise you; it’s called computational thinking. So they teach it not just for the kids to be IT literate, but for them to have problem-solving capabilities across all disciples including math, science, and the humanities. Obama made it his mission to have every single school teach computer science (CS). In Bahrain unfortunately most 7 year-olds don’t know what coding even means. We may have a few bright sparks in Bahrain who learnt English and coding by themselves.
BUT FOR US TO UNLOCK THE POTENTIAL OF THIS PARADISE ISLAND WE’RE GOING TO NEED TO INSTILL CORE VALUES AND PRINCIPLES THAT SHAPE THE CULTURE OF THE NEXT GENERATION.
Luckily, most are growing up with a mobile or i-pad next to them but the culture of cooperation is still lacking. Governmental support needs to start with the children, and then we can have a better rate of return on our investments. Start-ups are already a tricky venture (1 out of 10 succeeds), so let’s get more bang for our buck and focus on the new generation of IT. Bahraini’s definitely are smart so you never know, Bahrain could be the next India of the Arab world.