It's not easy being a kid today, no matter whether you are in China or in the U.S. Children are facing shifting curricula requirements, a strong focus on standardized test results, piles of homework, and a seemingly never-ending quest for achievements in everything from academics to sports. Last night I noticed my 9-year-old son was working through the same test paper of a science subject at least four times. “Why are you doing the same test paper again and again?” I could not help questioning it. The answer was that if you could not get full marks of the test paper, your punishment was to copy the paper at least five times. If it were me, I would do it but dislike science from then on.
My son told me he had to do typing homework over the weekend. Typing homework is an assignment of his information science class. Children are ordered to type the same paragraph again and again until they get a qualified typing speed. I did the typing homework instead and asked my son to go out and play. Having fun is more important than typing speed. I bet the AI can do the typing job in their times.
Why in the age of robots, schools are teaching our children to be redundant?
In the future, if you want a job, you must be unlike a machine as much as possible: creative, critical and socially skilled. Our schools were designed to produce the workforce required by 19th-century factories. Shenzhen, one of the most open, innovative cities in China, should do something to change it.
Definitely there is no single system for teaching children well, but the best ones should have this in common: They open up a rich world that children can explore in their own ways, developing their interest with help rather than indoctrination. There are many things that can be done, such as reducing teachers’ routine tasks and enabling teachers to give the children more individual help, some adjustments in educational evaluation criteria and more investment in creative museums. However, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
I took my son to the U.S. this Spring Festival. We drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Since there were only two of us on the journey, the targeted spots were museums, playgrounds and startup workshops. Within 13 days, we visited eight technology museums and three creative museums. For the first time, my son did a genetic experiment, which was set in a detective story to find out the thief by genetic experiment. The experiment was instructed one-to-one by the staff of the museum. For the first time, my son observed a body and organs’ specimens carefully because it is exhibited in a room that was decorated in a very child-friendly way. The entrance ticket costs no more than US$20.
Now, do you know why I have to fly to the U.S.? In fact, the distance from Shenzhen to Silicon Valley is much less than the cross-Pacific Ocean flight. Education is one short cut.
(With previous work experience in the United States, the author now works in Shenzhen and has studied the innovation policies for some time.)