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Can An Arts Education Save Future Careers In The Age Of Robots?

05/12/2016 13:43 GMT | Updated 06/12/2017 10:12 GMT
Jan Erik Posth via Getty Images

What is the value of creativity in the age of robots? Can we simulate emotional intelligence? These are some of the questions that engineers, artists and businesses are asking themselves as we enter the fourth industrial revolution.

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Researchers at Oxford University estimate that 47 percent of US jobs are at risk of displacement due to automation. Most in peril are routine administrative and secretarial jobs, but occupations such as accountancy and financial advisory services may soon be performed by artificial intelligence. According to a World Economic Forum survey, some companies expect to give artificial intelligence a board seat by 2026.

This poses serious questions to society as a whole and particularly to those of us in education: how can we educate children today to prepare them for the careers of tomorrow?

Technological advances will transform entire industries and change the world forever. In her book, Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Businesses for the 21st Century, Cathy Davidson points out that education systems are structured to produce qualifications and skills for an economy that won't exist when students enter the workforce. Davidson's book predicts that 65 percent of students attending primary school will work in jobs that don't yet exist. However, the idea that being technologically skilled can future-proof job security is a misconception. While digital, engineering and other hard skills are essential, research has noted that developing your ability in areas such as creativity, problem solving and social interaction is increasingly important.

The World Economic Forum recently highlighted that creativity, emotional intelligence and problem solving were amongst the most important skills required by leading global companies who represent 13 million employees across nine industries. By 2020, persuasion, emotional intelligence and the ability to teach others will be highly in demand as opposed to narrow specialised skills. In other words, technical know-how alone is not enough to succeed in this new industrial revolution. The report also emphasises that hard skills will need to be supplemented with strong social and collaboration abilities.

A silo approach to teaching subjects and the divisions between humanities and sciences continues to plague traditional education. We have a responsibility to imagine a forward-looking education fit for the 21st century which provides our students with the tools needed to succeed in a rapidly changing world. Subjects, whether part of the arts or the sciences, also need to be integrated and holistic.

These global trends are why Nord Anglia Education has forged collaborations with two of the world's leading universities: The Juilliard School and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Our new approach to STEAM in collaboration with MIT integrates the subjects of science, technology, engineering, arts and maths -- placing equal emphasis on each component. Our performing arts curriculum, developed in collaboration with Juilliard, enriches music, dance and drama learning to maximize student engagement. It also aims to foster skills such as creativity and rigorous thinking that will stay with students for a lifetime. After the first year of our collaboration, we conducted an impact survey amongst 900 students and 36 teachers in 10 schools offering the Juilliard programme. The initial results were extremely encouraging: 17 percent more students felt that their ability to be creative had been boosted by the programme, 92 percent of our teachers reported that students were "very engaged," and all said that visits by Juilliard artists inspired students. Teachers also noted that the programme was important in the development of transferrable skills including motivation, creativity, collaboration, confidence, global awareness, independence and problem solving.

The initial outcomes of our analysis illustrate the impact of a well-rounded education on improving soft skills such as creativity, confidence and problem solving. In addition to fostering a love of learning and an international perspective in our students, we are trying to prepare them with the skills needed to succeed in life; skills which can never be replaced by robots or automation.