KidZania Is Culturally Sensitive To Different Nations

In an exclusive telephonic conversation with BW Education, Dr. Ger Graus, Global Director of Education for KidZania shared some of the important aspects that KidZania looks after. Some excerpts of the interview are placed below

Dr. Ger Graus, Global Director of Education for KidZania

Q. There are a lot of disparities in terms of the activities. For example, if I would take a child below 3 years of age to KidZania, he/she would have very little to do at KidZania while as for kids between the age of 4-15, there might be more activities. So, is KidZania doing something for toddlers? I am also a little concerned about the activities which are there in KidZania and the entire Theme Park as it is a little on the expensive side for the average Indian Middle-Class Family. So, is KidZania also trying to bridge this gap?

To answer the first question, we are working globally on the provision for toddlers. Clearly, that needs to be appropriate to the age; we are working with a number of organizations, including an organization called “High Brow”, but also we are working at a local level. That’s actually incredibly important. We are working at the local level with Schools and Kindergarten and Nursery Providers because they know what the local agenda or curriculum (if you wish) for smaller children and second they actually know the children, so there will be a diverse menu of activities. 

Q. That’s pretty wonderful and it has covered the next question that I had in my mind. But yes, I would like to ask you one question which may be out of perspective. While KidZania is present in the European as well as Middle Eastern countries, do you find it is difficult to homogenize the entire cultures, so that if some activities are very interesting, let’s say there is one music floor wherever a child goes and he pays some Rs 30-40 he earns at KidZania which could be active and sought after activity for children in India or European countries but in the orthodox cultures in nations like Saudi Arabia or Gulf countries, where it may be looked down upon. So, do you also try to moderate the activities and customize your areas, or are they standardized everywhere?

A number of observations on that, if I may, it would be culturally disrespectful if we try to apply a “one size fits all” approach. It would be immoral. So, what we have is we have a framework of activities and we have a framework of qualities, but, the application of that framework needs to be left to a local level. The best example the best way I can describe it is this. You know the coloring in books we buy for little children, so in the coloring book, somebody has done the drawing, but the children do the coloring in. Well, it’s a bit like that with KidZania. So, we’ve done the drawing but the coloring will be different between India and the UK, the US and Saudi Arabia. Actually, the coloring, if you think about it, the coloring will probably be different between Delhi and Mumbai, because there might be marginal differences. So that’s that as a first observation.  I think we are respectful, at the same time, we are also challenging, so it is very clear, two observations on that, first one is, in KidZania Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, girls were allowed to drive from the day we opened, which is now 5 years ago, whereas, politically speaking, they have only just been allowed to drive for a couple of weeks now. We insisted that that activity was to go in for all children and not just for the boys. And that took quite a bit of negotiating, but that was absolutely the right thing to do. So there’s an example. The figures in the UK for example, in terms of school visits, tell you that 66% of all school visits come from the 40% most deprived areas in England. So we are working very hard with that, but are we happy with it, no we will never be happy with it. But we have the principles, we have the values and that’s kind of what we do.

Q. Sure. I’m sure you’re doing your bit as that is very evident. It’s a wonderful setup. Anything else you would like to speak in specific or in general?

I think, yes, I think there are two things, as you mentioned, the global approach, I think one of the things that we need to do for all of our children, and we again started to work very hard on this, we like to think quite soon, that if you are child that goes into KidZania Mumbai, then we will have perhaps travel activities, travel agency activities, so when you leave as a child, you are not just aware of KidZania Mumbai, but you are aware that there are many other cities in the world where there are also children who go to KidZania or be in a different KidZania, because we need to create two kinds of awareness in children. We need to create a global awareness in children and hope that our future generations make slightly less of a mess of the planet than we seem to be doing. And I think the other thing is, from our research if all the stereotypes are set at the age of 4, we need to press very hard with Government that future awareness is introduced in the primary curriculum, because it makes no sense to know that all the stereotypes are set at the age of 4, and then we wait for another 10 years before we have conversations with young people about what they might want to do in the future.

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