In a recent event at Tel Aviv University, Jack Ma presented his views on business but also on the future of education. In his own words, Jack Ma was “so bad at schooling”. The business tycoon famously failed his university entrance exam three times and was rejected from Harvard ten times. These anecdotes add to his legendary persona, but also serve to validate his point that our education system needs an upgrade. Less well-known perhaps is that Ma is a former teacher. In his own words, “Education is the most important and critical issue of our time”.
In his view, a common theme in both business and education is learning through mistakes. He emphasises his desire to hire people who are willing to take risks and not be afraid of failure. In the aforementioned interview, his response to whether he hired based on educational background was a resounding no. Alongside a candidate’s optimistic belief in the future, “The most important [part] is that you find the people with the fighting spirit, learning spirit”
On the future of work, Ma asserts that we shouldn’t be worried about being replaced by machines and technology because these are inherently different to human beings. However, we should be worried about the current education system and its focus on memorisation – something a machine can do far better than we can.
Instead, Ma argues, we should be teaching young people to be more innovative, more creative and more constructive. Education must become more global and more focused on teamwork – with more time given to painting, the arts, dance and team sports. He views the last century’s education as “knowledge-based”, which he acknowledges has progressed civilization to a great degree. Nevertheless, the next century should be “wisdom-based” and “human-based”. In tech businesses, like Alibaba, he explains that not only are data scientists and engineers required, but also social scientists, psychologists and experts on human behaviour.
Students need a good IQ, EQ and also LQ – what he refers to as the quotient of love. He says as well as an EQ to enable good understanding of others, he says that an LQ is essential for others to respect you. In a more whimsical turn, he states: “the brain will be replaced by machines but machines can never replace your heart”.