Experts Reveal Why Education Systems Must Balance the Hard and Soft Skills Needed to be Future Ready

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CMRubinWorld’s new interview with OECD experts explores the value of continuing to teach hard skills in the age of robots.

Computers and the Future of Skill Demand uses a test based on the OECD’s Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) to compare computers with humans. Robots seem to be better at hard skills such as mathematics and computing, while humans are much better at soft skills, such as reasoning and writing. Stuart W. Elliot, the book’s author, and Dirk Van Damme, the OECD’s Head of the Skills Beyond Schools Division, point out that new and improved AI will continue to dramatically change our lives as we’re “surrounded by computers that provide information, direct our attention and suggest choices.” If computers are better than humans at solving complicated math problems, why should students even bother to learn mathematics? Elliott and Van Damme state that while “it’s helpful for everyone to learn basic arithmetic as part of learning to reason with numbers,” the “real competence needed by people will be the critical thinking and reasoning to put all the pieces together.”

Saudi Arabia gave citizenship to a humanoid robot named Sophia. C. M. Rubin (Founder of CMRubinWorld) discusses with Elliott and Van Damme the societal disruption driven by newer technologies coming soon. Should governments be drafting legislations to deal with robots now? Elliott and Van Damme acknowledge that robots could become so “self-reflective that they’ll describe their reasoning and goals the same way humans do.” When that happens, society will “need to decide whether to treat those robots legally as having a kind of self-interest comparable to humans.”

Dirk Van Damme is Head of the Innovation and Measuring Progress Division (IMEP), which covers both the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) and the Indicators of Educational Systems (INES) program, in the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills. Stuart W. Elliott is an Economist and cognitive scientist working on comparing the skills of computers and humans to understand the long-term effects of automation on work, education and the economy. He is the author of Computers and the Future of Skill Demand.

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CMRubinWorld launched in 2010 to explore what kind of education would prepare students to succeed in a rapidly changing globalized world. Its award-winning series, The Global Search for Education, is a celebrated trailblazer in the renaissance of the 21st century, and occupies a special place in the pulse of key issues facing every nation and the collective future of all children. It connects today’s top thought leaders with a diverse global audience of parents, students and educators. Its highly readable platform allows for discourse concerning our highest ideals and the sustainable solutions we must engineer to achieve them.

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David Wine



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