The education system has the pretense of preparing new generations to participate in the labor market, or even more broadly in society, with many people calling this “functional literacy”, i.e. children having the ability to function in modern society.
I mean mainstream education mostly, but also various unorthodox courses and academies that try to fill the gaps in schooling. This is a too ambitious task by design, and children are destined to face many more kinds of life problems than those their teachers prepare them for. The world is evolving, education is catching up with this development, sometimes very well,, but there is not much that can be done about this very thing.
At this time, there are certain skills that I think we are all convinced will be needed both today and in the future, without diminishing their importance. Some of these skills are also universally applicable in all aspects of life.
Skills that meet both of these conditions are not many, so they may find a place in the curriculum without creating major headaches for principals and teachers.
One of these skills is working with data – specifically extracting valuable knowledge from big datasets of information. It is fashionable to call it “data science”, and before that we just called it “statistics”. Regardless of the semantics, regardless of the differences between statistical methods and data-science methods, the important thing is the ability to handle data sets to develop from an early age.
High school is the perfect time for most kids, I guess. But with some basic concepts one can start even earlier. But in high school, despite the pride of mathematical successes at Olympiads, statistics are either absent or very slightly lacking. Most students will only encounter these questions at university, and then only if they choose majors that include statistics in the program.
My recommendation is not based on statistics being “important for modern professions” (although the number of professions that require data skills is increasing).
My understanding is that navigating a world riddled with risk and uncertainty is more successful than people who can read the data. Not everyone needs to become a modeler or data visualizer, but it is important that everyone can navigate an environment where data is increasing.
More success means more actionable knowledge from this data – and this is important in all professional and personal spheres – from our yoga progress to analyzing political outcomes and stock markets.
Some parents will be skeptical because they will decide that artificial intelligence will analyze the data for us. This is true even now – we have delegated a lot of decisions to machines – which letters to get to us, which road to drive, and these decisions will surely become more.
But there will be other important decisions that you won’t be able to rely on AI alone for. Assisting by artificial intelligence not only does not need to analyze the data, but also enhances the importance of it to be able to read all the indicators.
There are other myths that parents will have to dispel. We do a particular disservice to children whom we judge to have no “math brain” based solely on their performance in Euclidean geometry or quadratic equations.
Even children who struggle with math material in school may find themselves quickly grasping concepts like probabilities and averages. Moreover, it can be shown that these very topics will increase their interest in mathematics in general.
This article is written by Georgi Stoev and was first published in Forbes Bulgaria.