6 quotes from Davos on the future of education

Fabiola Gianotti Director of CERN attends the session “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World” during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland January 23, 2018 REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The future of work is going to look very different, as automation and Artificial Intelligence make many manual, repetitive jobs obsolete.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, robots could replace 800 million jobs by 2030, while the World Economic Forum suggests a “skills revolution” could open up a raft of new opportunities.

“If we do not change the way we teach, 30 years from now, we’re going to be in trouble,” said Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group, China’s e-commerce giant.

The knowledge-based approach of “200 years ago”, would “fail our kids”, who would never be able to compete with machines. Children should be taught “soft skills” like independent thinking, values and team-work, he said.

“Anything that is routine or repetitive will be automated,” said Minouche Shafik, Director of the London School of Economics, in a session on Saving Economic Globalization from Itself. She also spoke of the importance of “the soft skills, creative skills. Research skills, the ability to find information, synthesise it, make something of it.”

Overhauling our education system will be essential to fixing the fractures in our societies and avoiding a tilt towards populism, she said.

“It’s no accident that the people who voted for populist parties around the world are people with by-and-large low levels of education. It’s not because they’re stupid, it’s because they’re smart. They’ve figured out this system will not be in their favour.”

If you’ve read about the rising importance of STEM skills – that’s Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics – ad infinitum, here’s a refreshing view from Fabiola Gianotti, a particle physicist and the Director General of CERN. She’s the woman in charge of the Large Hadron Collider as well as other Big Science projects, but she says music is as important as maths.

“We need to break the cultural silos. Too often people put science and the humanities, or science and the arts, in different silos. They are the highest expression of the curiosity and creativity of humanity,” she said in a session on education.

Read more at WeForum.

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