Humankind is facing unprecedented revolutions with all our old stories crumbling. How can we prepare ourselves and our children for a world of such unprecedented transformations and radical uncertainties? A baby born today will be thirty in 2050. What should we then teach that baby that will help him or her survive and flourish in the world of 2050 or in the twenty second century? What kind of skills will he or she need in order to get a job, understand what is happening around them, and navigate the maze of life?
Unfortunately, since nobody knows how the world will look in 2050- we do not have the answers to these questions. Today it is certainly more difficult to predict the future because once technology enables us to engineer bodies, brains and minds, we can no longer be certain about anything- including things that previously seemed fixed and eternal.
At present too many schools continue to focus on cramming information. In the past this made sense because information was scarce. In contrast in the twenty-first century we are flooded by enormous amounts of information and in such a situation, the last thing a teacher needs to give her students is more information. Instead, the focus should remain on helping students to synthesise all the data into a coherent and meaningful story of the world.
Besides information, most schools also focus too much on providing students with a set of predetermined skills such as solving differential equations, writing computer code in C++ or identifying chemicals in a test tube. Since we have no idea what the job market will look like in 2050, we don’t really know what skills people will need. We might invest a lot of effort teaching kids how to write C++ only to discover that by 2020 AI can code software far better than humans.
So, what should we be teaching in schools today? Many experts say that schools should switch to teaching ‘the Four C’s- Critical thinking, Communication, Collaboration and Creativity. In short it means to emphasise on life skills- meaning to develop the ability to deal with change, to learn new things, and to preserve one’s mental balance in unfamiliar situations.
To keep up with the world of 2050, one will therefore need not only to invent new ideas but more importantly reinvent oneself again and again.