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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

U.S. Not Prepping Students for the AI Future

As the world heads toward a more automated economy rooted in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), the United States ranks behind other wealthy nations in how well it’s preparing students for that future.

A new study by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the research and analysis division of The Economist Group, rated the U.S. ninth in its “automation readiness” index—behind South Korea, Germany, Singapore, Japan, Canada, Estonia, France, and the U.K. The study looked at policies to promote technological progress, creation of new businesses, and the development of policies and skills to help manage a transitioning labor market.

“If countries need a long-term strategy to deal with the challenges of automation, education must be at the center of it,” stated the report, which ranked the U.S. ninth in terms of its education policies. Students will need human-centered soft skills, such as critical thinking and communication, as well as grounding in certain hard skills that will need constant upgrading throughout their working lives as technology continues to advance. Adequately preparing those students will require changes to both curricula and to how educators themselves are trained.

“Very few countries are taking the bull by the horns when it comes to adapting education systems for the age of automation,” said Saadia Zahidi, head of education, gender, and employment initiatives for the World Economic Forum. “Those that are have long had a clear focus on human capital development.”

“We’re in a stage of experimentation,” noted James Bessen, executive director of the Technology & Policy Initiative at Boston University School of Law, “and I think it’s going to take us a couple of decades to figure out which policies and approaches work and which don’t.”

Considering it’s starting out behind among developed nations, those decades may be a luxury the U.S. can’t afford. The five highest-performing countries have already begun reshaping teacher education for the needs of the automated future.

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