Mars-Shot Thinking

Mangalyaan, the India Space Research Organisation‘s Mars Orbiter, has just become the first spacecraft from an Asian country to reach Mars – and the first globally to get into orbit on the first attempt. That’s a huge achievement, especially considering the low cost: just US$75million compared to NASA’s similar Maven project at US$671million [Forbes].

This reminds me of a trend a couple of years ago in education of thinking about ‘Moon-shot thinking‘, where the edge of technology and imaginative ideas inspire innovation, exploration and excitement.


A lofty and motivating goal for any educational institution. Mangalayaan now makes me wonder if we could instead be Mars-Shot Thinking in innovating our international schools.

Do we promote Mars-Shot Thinking in International Education?

Do we teach our learners to consider international perspectives on how to solve problems? That the biggest, the first or the ‘best recognised’ player may not be the best place to find inspiration?

Do we teach our learners that we don’t always need more technology, more expense and more resources to be thrown after a problem to achieve better results? That we can build a hopeful and sustainable future with what we have – and a little inspiration?

Do we teach our learners to build from a strong foundation of  knowledge and skills, and to be agile thinkers, so that they can launch their inquiries from the shoulders of giants?


I use ‘Learners’ here as deliberately as the IB do in the Learner Profile: it includes the adults in the school. Typically international schools are well-funded and resourced, perhaps even pioneers of EdTech and innovation in education. We rarely have the concerns that teachers back home face regarding funding, behaviour, social inequity. We have problems that are generally less serious, perhaps more ‘playful’ and probably more intellectual.

So can we energise and challenge ourselves and our colleagues to use Mars-Shot Thinking in collaboration, long-term goals and teaching?

Can we use Mars-Shot Thinking to inspire creative solutions to interesting problems?

If we have a strong foundation of curriculum, resources and professional practices are we better off putting our time, resources and collaborative efforts into encouraging this kind of culture?

There is no way I would advocate for a school administrator to use Mars-Shot Thinking as an excuse to slash budgets or to brush aside genuine concerns about poorly-resourced schools: these essentials are at the foundation of a teacher’s pyramid of needs. But what if we became too used to the ‘comforts’ of modern education? Would we expect more resources to achieve the same thing? Does the law of diminishing returns apply to investment in resources against gains in student learning? Hattie would suggest so.


Read more about ISRO’s Mission Profile






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