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Future of Education

Future of EducationI’m still reading the book Future Smart and I’m reading chapter “Chapter 13: Reinventing Education – the Future of Learning”. He does the usual lamenting of the dire state of education and how it is not preparing children for the new technological future. He forecasts a future of nations falling behind and its people mired in backwardness. But if ALL countries are not educating children for the future, then how are they falling behind? Who exactly is teaching for the future and will be the winner? He doesn’t say. Instead, it’s NOW, NOW, NOW, we have to change education because otherwise, we will be unprepared and will fall behind.

One of the things he proposes is that education should be geared for business. Hmmmm, for the benefit of business, huh? The reason for such a strident call for changing education is to make it bend to what business wants, not necessarily what is good for society.

I get a sense that there are generally two streams of philosophy about the purpose of education. The first philosophy is that education should be practical and prepare students for the world of work. The industrial method of education, where students sit dutifully in class and learn by rote and memorization, illustrates this practical philosophy. The second philosophy is that education should teach students to operate in the broad world, to think for themselves by introducing them to different and opposing views. This is probably best illustrated by the liberal arts education in higher education. This second philosophy does not fit the business world too neatly, although it has been said that those with a liberal arts degree perform better over the long run.

What James Canton is proposing suits the first philosophy which prepares students for the business needs (especially the immediate short-term one) but may not adequately prepare them in the general changing world. He preaches math, science and technology, but unfortunately, that is exactly the arena that AI excels in.

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The following is a full listing of things we should be learning:

  1. A foreign language,
  2. Problem solving and logically thinking,
  3. Managing complex information, knowledge and data,
  4. Communicating effectively in oral, written and digital formats,
  5. Devising digital business strategy,
  6. Understanding globalization,
  7. Becoming high-tech savvy,
  8. Dealing with diverse cultural teams,
  9. How to code,
  10. Understanding how to be an entrepreneur.

(From Future Smart, page 242)

Now actually, these are all worthy skills to pursue. They will help the individual as well as business, but we must keep in mind that a lot of these skills are technologically oriented and thus leaves you vulnerable to AI. So some of these skills will be great for businesses in the short-term but bad for the individual in the long run, unless he bolsters these technological skills with something else. Foreign language, communication, understanding globalization and cultural teams, and being an entrepreneur could be a great counterpoint to AI.

A brief walk off the path: we’re still talking about globalization? Hasn’t that been going on for two to three decades? If we still have this problem, maybe that is a sign that the elders are having problems with globalization and they are the ones in need of education.

Back to the topic at hand. The author does bring up an interesting proposal: self-directed learning where the student chooses what he wants to learn. That is interesting but you have to watch out here. Just think about the food that they would naturally pick. Anyone for broccoli?

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