Jack Ma on the Future of Education


The OECD recently held a major conference in Paris – The Forum for World Education. After standing down from his leadership role with Alibaba Group, Jack Ma has committed to put the bulk of his energies in to education.

He delivered an interest keynote speech at this conference.

Making Education Human

I don’t believe it’s wrong to say that still way too much of what goes on in schools is dehumanising, disrespectful and too redolent of the factory processing models of the past. I see so much written, and educators spending so much of their time working to tackle what are essentially the symptoms. Bullying is a classic example. Anti-bullying programmes are all well and good, but how much of the efforts are really directed at asking the cold, hard questions about what it might be about our schools as institutions that creates bullies and victims?

We have to be willing to challenge all orthodoxies, to question why we do what we do the way we do. If there aren’t good answers or justifications, especially keeping in mind that we need different outcomes in the 21st Century, then we have to ready to tear up the play book and seriously innovate with intent, with sensitivity and with passion.

I first came across the work of Steve Hargadon around 5 years ago because of his involvement with Web 2.0, School 2.0 and other aspects relating to ICT in Education. He has conducted a very large number of interviews with key figures in education, available as podcasts, as part of pushing forward a reform agenda to support educators who want to achieve real and lasting change.

Here’s a recent article about Steve’s work:

KQED News – Mindshift – Steve Hargadon

His ideas about school creating followers really struck a chord with me, as many parents and teachers have heard me talk on this very issue in recent months. This one issue alone offers many aspects for a teacher to explore what they do, how they interact, what is the nature of classroom discipline – and whether it’s creating followers or leaders. There’s no question, leaders must be self-disciplined, but the argument is that for this young people need a very different set of practice and experiences than the usual teacher-driven discipline of school. All this does is breed surly obedience in too many children.

To get genuine self discipline in schools, we have to enable children to be far more involved and have a focus on student voice.

There’s much work ahead.

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