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Can’t remember? Don’t worry. You have the ability to succeed in the real world

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How do we ensure children’s education helps them to lead successful and happy lives?

If we look at education over the last century, we could make an argument that those who got good grades in school and, therefore, were deemed successful students simply had good memories and could read well.

How many times, though, have youngsters said they studied hard to pass tests, but then forgotten what they learned a week later? And why do we still label students who do that as being among the best?

In my view, being a successful student is not about understanding and remembering; it is about much more. But somehow, we reached a stage in education where memory was regarded as more important than other intellectual abilities.

Historically, passing information between humans required a good memory in order to transfer useful knowledge between groups and across generations.

Interestingly, though, that is now no longer the case. We don’t need to rely on memory as before. The advance of technology in the last 20 years has seen to that, with the resources of the internet changing our approach to learning.

We don’t need to rely on memory as before.

By providing the means to sift and share huge amounts of data, it has made the attribute of memory less prized.

In most cases, a mobile device can answer most questions I have. But schools have not moved as quickly in terms of what they promote and value in children’s education.

In a fast changing world, we need to think hard about which skills and abilities will be most important in future and act accordingly.

We need to think hard about which skills and abilities will be most important in future and act accordingly.

For example, a recent Oxford study indicated that artificial intelligence and robotics could make 47 per cent of jobs in the US obsolete in the next few years. Robots are already taking over numerous functions in fields like hospitality, banking, and health care. So, if the machine worker has already arrived, where does that leave the up-and-coming generation of students?

Clearly, they have to develop and then enhance skills which have value and will not become redundant. Personally, I doubt that memorisation will be on the list.

For instance, a mobile device can tell us what four plus four equals – and much else. Therefore, modern education should be focusing more on tasks requiring perception and insight, social intelligence and, most of all, creative intelligence.

Young children are naturally creative, but too often they lose that ability if school lessons are mainly a matter of learning formulae and processes. Much better is for schools to enhance creativity and develop skills in analysis, synthesis and evaluation, which will help and encourage children to become innovators and entrepreneurs.

These are the people who will be best equipped to play a key part in the future workforces and have better opportunities to lead happy and successful lives.

Malcolm Kay

Malcolm Kay is the Superintendent of Stamford American School Hong Kong.

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