The Changing Educational Landscape
Educator and innovator Enkhmunkh Zurgaanjin (Mongolia, UWC Atlantic College 2003-2005) on the importance of STEM and the UWC mission.
Enkhmunkh Zurgaanjin worries about the future of learning. When asked what keeps him awake at night, his answer demonstrates how passionate and concerned he is about education, and access to education around the world: “I worry what would happen if we failed to provide the education and skills necessary for children to improve their quality of life.”
Enkhmunkh was the first Mongolian graduate both of UWC Atlantic College (2003-2005) and of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he explored his interest in technology by studying computer science. While still an undergraduate student at MIT, Enkhmunkh incorporated his knowledge of computer technology with his passion for education, and spearheaded the launch of the One Laptop Per Child programme in Mongolia, which sought to increase children’s access to educational tools. After obtaining his masters’ degree from the Stanford Graduate School of Education, Enkhmunkh returned to Mongolia, where he has served as Principal of Sant School in Ulan Bator since 2011 and continues to push the boundaries between education and technological innovation.
As new technologies develop, new opportunities arise for these technologies to be put to use in the educational sector. While the inclusion of technology into children’s learning is sometimes a controversial topic among educators, Enkhmunkh firmly believes that computer scientists have a crucial role to play in the changing landscape of education. He decries the relatively low number of computer scientists working in the field, attributing it to the high demand for these skills in other areas such as banking and commerce. “I would really like to change the education sector through technology,” says Enkhmunkh: aside from his work with the One Laptop Per Child programme, he also works to bring high quality STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education to his students at Sant School (one of Enkhmunkh’s STEM students was featured in The New York Times). He is also currently developing a free app to enhance children’s math learning: “The app I am envisioning will be a private tutor for the school children who can’t afford one, and essentially it will help to reduce the achievement gap in math and other subjects.”
Enkhmunkh praises the UWC experience for having taught him the value of intercultural understanding, the power of collaboration, and for giving him the tools he needed to succeed in his academic pursuits: “It was very challenging to change my direction [from studying computer science] to pursue a master's degree in education both academically and culturally. The UWC experience taught me to be flexible and resilient when facing any new challenge.” He also gives credit to the rigorous math and science program at UWC Atlantic College for preparing him for university. Looking back at his UWC education he thinks, however, that UWC schools and colleges ought to better adapt to this digital era and offer more courses and activities focused on technology, computer programming and entrepreneurship.
“Technology will be the key factor in education policies around the world within 10 years”, says Enkhmunkh. “I hope that UWC can be at the forefront of the technology movement in education, in addition to following its mission and values.” This hope is rooted in more than a simple desire to see UWC continue to be a leader in the field of international education: Enkhmunkh is thinking about what many see as a larger issue within educational systems. “There is a gap between liberal arts education and engineering education”, Enkhmunkh says. “I believe that UWC schools and colleges can help to narrow this gap for students before they start their undergraduate degrees - as a result, we may have more "UWC-spirited" engineers who pursue their careers in the field of education and health rather than in the highest-paying industries.”
Interested in the connections between technology and the future of education? Be sure to check out UWC's live-streamed event on 16 November 2017, "Educating for an Economy That Works".