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Jan de Jong at Harfa’s Education for the Future meetup: Children should be taught critical thinking!

Split Tech City

Split Tech City


Last Thursday, the first edition of Harfa International School’s meetup on education titled “Education for the Future” took place. The guest of this first meetup was Jan de Jong.

As we have already announced, the Harfa International School has initiated a series of meetups to start a dialogue, and also influence changes that should take place in education today so that we can expect positive changes tomorrow.

Parenting and education have never been more challenging. What is needed for both to respond to the needs of children today and to prepare them well for life tomorrow in a world that is radically and rapidly changing? Jan de Jong offered his insights into these and similar questions posed by Marina Tudor from Harfa.

Jan de Jong – successful entrepreneur and father of four children

De Jong is a Dutchman who, in his own words, is “living the Croatian dream“. His impressive life path made him the right person to open Harfa’s communication platform and public dialogue on education.

He is not only a successful entrepreneur, but also the father of four children, two of whom are already attending elementary school in Croatia.

As an entrepreneur, he is known to the wider audience as:

  • the founder of a company that is listed on the Zagreb Stock Exchange and employs over 11,000 employees in the region
  • founder of the first company in the region that deals with e-mail marketing automation and that introduced a four-day workweek
  • co-founder of a company that develops high-tech solutions for feeding a growing population in a sustainable, reliable, and nutritious way with the mission of making Croatia less dependent on food imports and ultimately turning Croatia into a food exporting country again
  • initiator of the initiative to introduce the digital nomad visa in Croatia thanks to which Croatia became one of the first countries in the world to accept digital nomads by issuing 12-month residence permits

In addition to all of the above, Jan has become a Linkedin influencer who tirelessly promotes Croatia and is driven by a mission – to make Croatia successful!

Back in 2006, while half a million Croatians left the country in search of a better life elsewhere, one Dutchman moved to Croatia and stayed. How did that happen? Well, here’s his story.

Came for work, stayed for love

The question of all questions – how did Jan end up in Croatia, of all countries, a country he had never been to before, not even on vacation?!

Jan studied Marketing at the University of Leiden, and since it is customary in his country for young people to start earning their own pocket money very early, he already worked between 30 and 40 hours a week in a call center as a student.

Jan de Jong

He was very interested in getting to know the world and new cultures, and as luck would have it, he had a Croatian friend who already had a company in Split. That’s why Jan came to Split to write his graduation thesis and to open a company, that is, a branch of the company for which he was already working in the Netherlands at the time.

He fell in love with our city, found his work here, then love, and ultimately the lifestyle he always wanted for himself.

When asked whether his success is the result of the upbringing he had in the environment he comes from or whether he was born enterprising, Jan answers: a combination of both!

Skills for the future

Considering the topic of the meetup is education for the future, and Jan is also a parent, we were most interested in what he thought on those topics. Such as – what life skills should be taught to children today for them to be successful in the future? And how to prepare them for that future? What is it that employers will be looking for?

Among the skills needed for success today, Jan singles out proactivity, risk-taking, and communication.

A desire to learn, a positive attitude, and teamwork are also extremely important.

It is never too early to teach children positive values. They don’t have to be the best at everything, but it’s important that they try. More optimistic people are generally more successful in life. “Surround yourself with positive people, those who support you!”

As humans, we never stop learning, and nowadays we have many more learning tools available than ever before.

Lifelong learning is important for building a sustainable society of the future.

Of course, Jan points out, the desired skills largely depend on the industry in which one works. For example, to be a developer you definitely need to know how to program, and that skill can be learned at school, i.e. at the university.

On the other hand, there is no college for the business he runs (Yet!) because the email marketing industry is still developing, so they have to teach their employees about everything they actually do.

That is why it is most important for them that their (future) employees have the right attitude towards work, the desire to learn, and the ability to work as a team.

What can we learn from Jan?

Jan likes to learn, copy, and implement good things.

For example, the four-day workweek is not his idea – Iceland was the first country to conduct an experiment on the four-day workweek. Observing that experience, he wanted his company, which deals with e-mail marketing automation, to be the first in Croatia to introduce this concept.

The results turned out to be excellent – employee productivity increased, as well as job satisfaction and flexibility. Today, he says it was one of the best decisions they ever made.

It is important for Jan to develop a successful business, but also to leave a positive impact on his surroundings.

That is why he is also the co-founder of the company CROP, which sustainably develops high-tech solutions for nutrition.

With the knowledge that the Dutch have about growing food, greenhouses heated by geothermal heat sources, which are abundant in northern parts of Croatia, are the future of food production. We just need to start.

The more you give to the community, the more you get in return. Jan, we wish you success with this enterprise, too!

And what are young people looking for today?

Young people today are looking for different things than the generations before them, who have more or less spent their whole lives working for the same company.

Younger generations are more focused on gaining experiences, getting to know the world, and traveling. They want to live experiences more than own things, they want to enjoy more flexibility… and this has become a new lifestyle!

“Game changer is a lifestyle!”

Jan is also the initiator of the digital nomad visa initiative. It is assumed that there are 35 million people in the world today who declare themselves as digital nomads, with an income of 800 billion dollars.

This trend is a great opportunity for Mediterranean countries, especially Croatia. These individuals travel the world and take their work with them. They are actually looking for places where they can live their lifestyle, and Croatia, as a safe country with lovely nature and an excellent climate, offers them exactly that.

In his opinion, Croatia has the best lifestyle in all of Europe.

What kind of change is needed in our country to be successful? Leading by positive example.

Jan has been living in Croatia for 16 years and has seen changes in entrepreneurship in recent years. There are many more positive and successful stories about young people who have created successful companies from scratch and offered their services on the global market.

More and more such stories are being heard, and more and more young people getting employed in such companies will result in changes in mentality. Positive changes will turn this country into a better Croatia.

Marina Tudor and Jan de Jong
About AI, children, and education

How to use technology so that it does not use us? Are we already late?

These days, a group of scientists, as well as Elon Musk, requested a 6-month moratorium on the development of artificial intelligence. That news echoed around the world.

They agree that the development of artificial intelligence is going so fast that it can potentially threaten the human race. The real problem is that it is developing faster than our ability and speed to understand this development.

AI will play a big role, no doubt. Change is inevitable, and technologies will always shift and improve.

Jan believes that changes should be embraced without fear and with optimism, and children should be raised with an open mind and taught to develop critical thinking.

As for education and how it has remained the same while the world and the job market have changed, the right teachers in anyone’s education can lead the way by inspiring children.

To conclude this meetup on education for the future, let’s go back a little in history, to the famous saying of the Greek philosopher and historian Plutarch:

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”

Author: Josipa Ivić
Photos: Harfa International School


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