Interview with Karolina Stawinska - Helping children fulfil their dreams

By Kathy Jastrzebski - Mar 22nd, 2016

Inspiring the leaders and changemakers of tomorrow has been a major theme in Karolina Stawinska’s work to date. For one of her most recent projects - Our Future World – she focuses on inspiring children to dream big and empowering them to create their own future. We spoke to Karolina to find out what she hopes to achieve through her Talk at the 2016 edition of TEDxAmsterdamED.

What does #BorntoLearn mean to you?

To me, born to learn means that we are all born curious learners, investigators and artists. We start off limitless, but unfortunately the standard school system can kill curiosity by forcing children to learn things that are not necessarily going to help them shape their own future once they finish formal education. That is why with Our Future World we aim to capture children’s wonder, empower them to dream big and give them purpose by stimulating them to act on their dreams.

What motivated you to get involved with learning/education?

When I was a 5 year old, I was a creative and daring child, but somehow through my primary education and leading up to the National Standardised Test at 11, I had lost a lot of my creativity and curiosity. To make the situation worse, the Test determined that I was not suitable to go to university. While university should not necessarily be the ultimate goal, the education options that were before me were not at all stimulating. At that age I was too young to really understand what university was and grasp the weight of the situation. But I was lucky to have very engaged parents who challenged the system and put me on a path that allowed me to keep learning and growing.

Then in 2011, I went on a trip around the world with Semester at Sea. During this time I came across a case-study of an inspirational woman from Zimbabwe, who, despite her circumstances being set against her, managed to follow her dream of attending first primary, then secondary school and ultimately even finishing her PhD in the United Kingdom. It was inspiring on many levels, but especially in the sense that when a child is inspired to follow their dream they can achieve incredible things. It also put my own education, and that of my primary school classmates, into perspective – despite being privileged to grow up in the developed world, with access to so much, our dreams were progressively limited through our education. That is why I was motivated to cofound Our Future World to help children all over the world unleash their inner genius.

What’s the last thing you’ve learnt?

The last thing I’ve learnt is that the world is full of opportunities and together, we can achieve a lot…as long as there is a clear vision and it is done for the right reasons.

What do you hope to learn on the day of the event?

I’m looking forward to learning what other innovators in education are doing and how their actions could help further the mission of Our Future World. I think the education system really needs to change to help children identify their biggest dreams and give them the opportunity to build their own futures.

Can you give a one-sentence summary of your talk?

I would say, ‘How to help children fulfil their dreams,’ encapsulates the focus of my talk.

Can you share a quote or a person that has inspired you in the field of education?

Although this is not a quote specifically about education, it is something that motivates me to act and drive a change in this and other areas that I am passionate about:

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” – Paulo Coelho

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