Elon Musk believes that most of the education system today doesn’t teach valuable skills.
That you need to succeed in the business world, and he has a point. To illustrate his point, he gives an example of what happened at Google when he was hired there many years ago. He was given a tour of the offices, and at one point, the tour guide stopped at a whiteboard and asked someone to write down the formula for calculating pi on it.
The most important skill a kid will learn in school is how to learn on their own. You’re never going to see what you can see when you teach children skills that require critical thinking, creativity, and how to learn effectively from mistakes. Nobody has ever learned anything from tests because they don’t improve your ability to think critically or creatively—they only measure your ability to remember information. The second most important skill children should develop at school is communication.
In today’s world, nobody wants to do business with somebody who can’t communicate well. Knowing how to write effectively is key here, but so are communication technologies like email and instant messaging—even Twitter is excellent for improving your message clarity.
The third most important skill is empathy. Students must learn how to put themselves in other people’s shoes, to develop an understanding of other people and how they think. Imagine you’re trying to improve at chess.
If you don’t know how your opponent thinks, then your improvement depends entirely on what he does—and you can only learn so much from that! In order to improve your thinking skills, think about how someone else might approach a problem and why that would be a better approach than yours (or vice versa). Finally, students should learn to have tolerance for others who think differently or live differently from them.
Increase creativity with hands-on activities.
Students engage better when they get to actually touch and explore ideas, rather than just talk about them. That’s why it’s so important to increase opportunities for hands-on activities in classrooms. Hands-on projects allow students to build creative solutions that they can take ownership of and are less likely to forget than a lecture or idea that isn’t theirs. Most importantly, hands-on activities can make learning more fun, especially for younger students who find new subjects intimidating or boring.
Hands-on projects also help students gain more creative skills, which is one of those things that we’re supposed to learn in school but don’t because of traditional teaching methods. Instead of just explaining a lesson to kids, let them build something themselves and have them explain what they did afterwards. It doesn’t need to be complicated either; you can ask your students to put things together or glue two items together instead of telling them how it works. The goal is for them to create something from their imagination. And remember: classroom pets, such as goldfish or turtles, work well too!
If you’re not convinced, just remember what Musk said to his nephew: “Education is not a product.” It’s an experience. The goal of school should be to teach people how to think, not what to think. When you learn something new, it should work in all contexts across your life. If it doesn’t fit everywhere, then it isn’t really understood well enough and is likely forgotten quickly.
Technology should be encouraged in schools.
I’m not in any way against the school itself. For some people, it’s a necessity. But I think there should be some sort of option for people to learn things independently. At universities, most professors will actually turn you off from a field if they know more about it than you do—they don’t want to teach, they want to do research. Why does that make sense?
For those that are in school and want to learn, I think we should be developing an online platform where anybody can post a video, write an essay, create a class, or something like that. If you want to learn about it, you’ll find these classes, and you can decide if you want to pursue it. For every topic—no matter how specific—there is somebody out there who knows more about it than 99 per cent of the population. And yet, they’re typically not given a voice by our current educational institutions.
That’s why I like Wikipedia. It’s one of the things I love about the internet—it democratizes information. If you want to learn about something, you can go there and find out everything you could possibly want to know about it. But with a few notable exceptions, learning via Wikipedia is not graded in any way. There is no homework; there are no tests, and you never get a final grade for completing an entry or series of entries on some topic that interests you. There are only people donating their time to help others access information, so I like to donate my time too in places where I think that it is lacking and other people would enjoy having it available as well.
Inculcate curiosity in kids.
Humans have a natural propensity to seek out new things and learn. At any age, anyone can cultivate his or her curiosity, but it’s especially important at an early age. Many students today are taught not to ask questions in class because they’re considered disruptive. They’re discouraged from doing independent projects because they require too much effort. In some cases, instead of being rewarded for asking questions, these kids are labelled as troublemakers and asked to leave class. If we want people who aren’t afraid of trying something new, someone needs to foster that kind of attitude early on.
At 17, he enrolled at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario to study physics and economics. After two years at Queen’s, he transferred to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics. He never finished his PhD studies. Instead, he returned to California to found his first company with other recent graduates from his program at Stanford: Zip2 Corporation.
At 24, he sold Zip2 for US$300 million to Compaq and then turned his attention to Space X, an aerospace manufacturer, and space transport services company. In 2008, Space X’s Falcon 1 rocket became the first privately funded liquid-fueled vehicle to put a satellite into Earth orbit. In 2010, SpaceX launched its Dragon spacecraft into orbit and docked with the International Space Station in 2012, making it only the second privately funded company after SpaceShipOne.
In 2012, Tesla Motors was founded as a car manufacturer that specializes in electric cars as well as battery products and solar roofs. That same year, Tesla released its patents on its electric vehicles so that other companies could use those designs and improve upon them to create more affordable EVs.
Make sure teachers are qualified to teach their subjects
When asked if he thought we should make changes to our educational system, his response was simple. I think it’s broken. I don’t see any hope for [it] being fixed in an elegant way, he said. The best thing that could happen is that I’m proven wrong. But most likely we will just have more tests and teachers teaching to those tests and students not learning much of anything… It will be something where we go through another technological revolution before anything really changes—and that kind of sucks.
In order to fix our educational system, we’re going to need dedicated teachers who are properly qualified. Qualification doesn’t just mean that they have a degree—but that they also understand how students learn and how best to educate them.
Teachers need to think outside of school and find new and better ways to keep students interested.
They need to be motivated by more than just their salary and bonus structure; they need a real passion for teaching. If we could inspire more people to teach children, then maybe our world would be a lot better off. Imagine having one of your favourite teachers for every subject—but that isn’t practical because there aren’t enough amazing teachers in existence.
But what if I told you that you could have them anyway? An online service called VIPKID will match you with qualified teachers from around the world who want to teach English as a second language (ESL) or help develop your child’s native language skills using VIPKID’s proprietary curriculum. All of these teachers are highly qualified and have years of experience teaching students one-on-one online.
Encourage kids to find their passion early on
The world needs more dreamers, more inventors, and more entrepreneurs. Instead of pushing kids to become doctors or lawyers—which are both fine professions—we should be teaching our children that they can make a huge impact on their community with their skills. We need to instil in our kids that it’s okay to want to change things for the better; we don’t all have to conform, follow traditional paths, and become carbon copies of one another. The world would be a far better place if we did.
Encouraging our kids to pursue their passions and to believe in themselves can have a lasting impact on how they view life. If we can give them that sense of confidence early on, they’ll likely go on to become successful entrepreneurs and inventors; people who want to make a difference. We need more like that in today’s world—people who are willing to think outside of the box, never be discouraged by failure, and try again if something doesn’t work out. The world needs more like them. That’s why it’s important for us all to push our kids beyond what they think is possible and encourage them every step of the way along their journey. Hopefully, we can help create a better future for everyone in turn.
Reduce homework load, and encourage children to have fun after school.
As Elon Musk said, I really don’t think people should be forced to go to school. Like, why can’t people just learn on their own? In fact, there is plenty of research that suggests homework is a waste of time, and may even hinder student learning. For example, one study found that students who spent more time on homework actually did worse in school. The researchers recommend teachers spend less time trying to enforce homework and more time helping kids learn outside of class. If anything, elementary schools should offer extra-curricular activities—like sports or music classes—after regular hours instead of forcing students to spend hours at home doing busy work.
Homework is also a burden on children’s parents, who spend hours trying to help their kids with their assignments. Not only does homework eat into parents’ own work and leisure time, but most evidence suggests it doesn’t help kids in any way. In fact, an analysis of homework studies found no evidence that homework improves academic performance at all. Homework may even harm students by causing sleep deprivation, making it harder for them to concentrate in class and perform well on tests and assessments. It’s hard to tell whether students are actually doing their homework or just filling in worksheets without really understanding what they’re doing.