Education is on the wrong path, says founder of educational games business Panjango

Jon Maiden, co-founder of Panjango.
Jon Maiden, co-founder of Panjango.
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Education in this country is headed in the wrong direction with too much emphasis on rote learning and passing exams, according to the founder of a new educational games business.

Jon Maiden launched Panjango earlier this year. The Sheffield-based business creates games that connect what children learn in the classroom to the outside world.

Mr Maiden, who has spent time helping manage a school for children with disabilities in South Africa as well as working on a UN educational development project in Poland, believes that the UK needs to be unlocking young people’s creative potential.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “The arts have become marginalised in schools. We are heading in the wrong direction as a country.

“What we need to be doing is unlocking the creative potential of young people, showing young people that they have the ability to come up with creative solutions to complex problems.

“Really helping them to take ownership of their own learning and learn in a way that excites them, rather than just going back to more rigour and more assessments.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said the Government supports a range of music and arts education programmes.

She added: “We expect all students to receive a broad and balanced curriculum and the arts subjects are a valuable part of this.

“We have always made this clear and Ofsted already inspects schools on this basis.”

Panjango is looking to offer experiential learning both on and offline. It aims to do this through apps, web-based platforms and offline with board and card games, for which the company has just launched a kickstarter campaign.

Mr Maiden says the games are targeted at eight to 13-year-olds as many young people become disengaged with education during the transition from primary to secondary school.

“We want to capture them during those key transition years and get them invigorated by learning because it has purpose and meaning for them,” he said.

While Panjango is looking to show the value of learning to young people by applying their skills to the world of work, Mr Maiden insists that it isn’t like traditional careers education.

He said: “Instead of narrowing their choices down we flip the funnel around.

“We’re about opening minds and broadening their horizons, showing them all of the exciting possibilities that are available to them in the future and then help them to develop as a well-rounded individual.”

Mr Maiden says Panjango has been designed for the consumer market but can also become a valuable resource for school classrooms.

A social firm for children

Prior to co-founding Panjango, Jon Maiden was director of an arts education charity.

The company was formally launched by Mr Maiden and Joseph Leech in May this year following a £150,000 investment from the Young Foundation.

The investment enabled the company to build out its suite of resources and take on a small team. The firm has three staff.

Jon Maiden, who is a graduate of Sheffield University, said: “The underlying motivation is we want every young person to fulfil their potential. We are a business but we’re a social business.”