Conversations with Sal: Talks and presentations
Year 2060: Education Predictions
I've been asked to make predictions for the year 2060, or 50 years in the future. And I thought I would focus this video on things that I feel pretty good about or things that I feel are close to my heart and hopefully things that things like the Khan Academy might be able to bring about. So the first big change I expect in the next 50 years-- and I actually don't think it'll take 50 years for it to happen. It'll probably happen fairly quickly over the next 10 years-- is that the classroom model fundamentally changes. So classroom different. And it's going to change from a model like this, and not all classrooms look like this. There are already classrooms that are exploring different types of ways for students to interact with each other and with the professor. But still, in most classrooms of the world, especially if you take the introductory courses at most universities, you'll see something like this. You'll see a professor lecturing in some way and a bunch of students sitting in rows taking notes, and then they'll take an exam at the end of the term. In probably, frankly, 10 years, this is going to go away, completely go away. You won't have people passively sitting in lecture halls taking notes. So we're going to move from a passive model, taking lectures completely-- and this is already happening to a certain degree-- completely to an active, I would call it, discovery and creative model. So the classroom of the future will look something much more like this. In fact, you might not even call it a classroom. You would call it a room or some type of project room or something like that. And the general idea is right now all of these resources are spent for people to passively get information from a professor. When that is necessary-- and there will be times where you want to learn a little bit of what someone else discovered about calculus or quantum physics or anything like that-- that'll be at your own time, at your own pace. And we can pretend like that's happening to this gentleman right over there, and maybe he's even able to practice some of those core skills. But a bulk of the time will be spent doing this, will be doing-- building things, creating things, exploring things. And it doesn't just have to be science and technology. These people look like they're building some type of a robot. It could be painting a picture or composing a sonata or choreographing a dance. Whatever it might be, it's going to be much more active, discovery-based, and creative. And actually, one, I think this is going to happen technologically, because a lot of the stuff that's happening in this model right over here can start to happen a little bit more efficiently through this model. So it frees up time for this. But it's also going to be a social imperative that it happens. If you rewind a few hundred years-- and actually, you don't even have to rewind that far-- the bulk of society was kind of involved in, I'll call it physical labor. You had a smaller fraction that was involved in mental labor. So I'll call this mental labor, sometimes white collar jobs. Something like filling out your taxes, that is mental labor. And you had a very small percentage of society-- so this is kind of historically, and I'm even overstating what it is-- a very small percentage of society spent in kind of innovation, creativity, art, things like that. So art, innovation, true science, true pushing the frontiers of the human experience and human understanding forward. Now, as you get more and more technology, technology, especially with the Industrial Revolution, started to automate a lot of this. And it also made the pie bigger. And so when you have kind of an industrial society, what happened is the necessity for physical labor went down. So you had a smaller percentage of the population that needed to do physical labor. The mental labor actually grew, so more people can now be involved in things like mental labor. And obviously, even automation is handling some of that as well, but you've freed up more people to do mental labor. And you've definitely freed up a good bit more of resources and people that can now do the frontier, pushing the envelope, the art, the innovation, the creativity. Now, if we fast-forward to the year 2060, I think this is going to become an extreme form, where almost no physical labor is necessarily required. People might like to do it for exercise. So this part right over here is going to be very, very, very small, especially in developed countries. And hopefully by 2060, most countries will be developed. Even the mental labor is going to be taken over more and more by automation. So a lot of this is going to be automated. So you're going to need less people doing traditional mental labor tasks-- filling out paperwork, filling out your taxes, things like that. And it's going to free up a lot of wealth and a lot of resources and a lot of people's hours to do truly artful, creative, innovative things. And so the bulk of society, I think, by 2060, if things go well, will be over here, will be in this kind of creative class. This is where most people will sit. So it's actually an imperative that our classrooms-- one, the tools are happening to make it possible, to make it feasible. But not only that, but it's an imperative if society really is moving in this direction-- and I think it is-- so that we have as many people as possible that can do this research and development, that can do truly creative activity. Now, a corollary to this idea that the classroom will be different, that people will be working self-paced-- they'll be spending a lot more time working on projects-- is that instead of our credentials being, for the most part, seat-time based-- so right now, our credentials-- and it's not 100% seat-time. But to a large degree, most people spend 12-- actually, 13 years in K through 12. So that's 13 years. And then if you get a college degree, it's expected it's going to be another four years. And there are some people who are able to tweak this, skip a grade here or there. But for the most part, the bulk of people do 13 years and then four years. And then what the variable is is how well you actually achieved-- how well you actually understood the material. So the variable-- so this thing is relatively fixed, and then the variable is your level of achievement. Forgot an E, achievement. And this right over here is variable. So some people go through the system with straight A's. They've really understood everything, or hopefully they've understood everything if they got straight A's. Some people have B's. Some people get C's. And that's why we have something called a grade point average. It shows that variation in achievement, even though everyone is kind of in this fixed seat-time. What we're going to transition to, especially once everyone is learning at their own pace-- they don't have to kind of move together lockstep in these classrooms-- is you're going to go to an achievement-based model where there are achievements that you are trying to get to, and they can be multiple things. Part of the achievements could be skills like maybe calculus or being able to read music or being able to, I don't know, understand quantum physics. These would all be achievements, but you decide how you will learn to master these core concepts. So it won't be based on you have to spend 13 years and then four years going into debt to do it. You could go to a formal institution to learn some of this stuff, or you could learn it however you see fit. You might be able to be an apprentice with someone and then eventually show that you know quantum physics very well. And I can imagine these achievements would be far more rigorous than the assessments that are being given right now. They could be oral examinations. They could be practical examinations. They could be contingent upon you building or applying some of this information. But what's interesting about this is now the seat-time, the time is variable. Let me write this. The time is now the variable. You can do this whenever, wherever, however long it takes. You could even revisit things when you're 40 or 50. There won't be any artificial stopping point, that you are 22. You're a college grad. Now you will not learn new things anymore. And what's fixed-- and I won't call it fixed, because you can always get more and more achievements. But the achievements will be at a high standard. It's a fixed high standard. So that if you get this reading music achievement, you really do know how to read music, which is different than some other achievements. If I get a C in a calculus class, it's not clear that I actually do understand calculus. In fact, it's not even necessarily true if I got an A in a calculus class whether I definitely understand calculus. So fixed high standards. And I imagine that the only credentials won't just be these kind of subject-based credentials. The most important part-- because remember, the emphasis here is on the creative, on the projects. And in creative fields, your real transcript is not your GPA. Your real transcript is your portfolio of projects, portfolio of work that you've done. So people will get things like this to show that they understand specific domains, but the most important part of the transcript of the future will be people's achievements-- or I should say, their projects. So maybe I made a robot that can maybe make toast of some kind. Maybe I've painted a picture, so here's a picture. Maybe I've written a piece of software that does something interesting, so some software. So what employers and other people will really care about isn't just your GPA or how much time you spent in a lecture hall. They'll say, show me the stuff that you have actually built, that shows that you are really in this creative class, that you can start from scratch and create something new and novel. And I also imagine, because we'll be getting so much data while people are actually working on getting some of their core skills, that you won't just even have these, do you know calculus? Do you know quantum physics? You'll also have metrics, how hard working were you? How well did you persevere, especially maybe when you failed first? These would be, I think, considered to be good things. And on top of that, you could start to measure, how well did you help others? So that could be another achievement, helping others. When you virtually tutor people or physically tutor people, they rate you. And they say, wow, that person really did help me. And we can even look at the data to see whether you had a statistically significant impact on their results. Now, the next corollary with this different classroom and this achievement-based learning is I think the role of the teacher will change dramatically. And I think it'll be in a very powerful way. So the role of the teacher, rather than being a lecturer and often giving similar lectures from year to year and always going at the same pace, the teacher will now be a coach or a mentor. And anyone who's ever seen a great football or basketball coach will tell you that a great coach or a mentor is a very rich and important role, and so I think that the role of the teacher will go up dramatically. And it actually won't even be an isolated profession anymore. Right now, in a traditional classroom, because it's lecture-based, you have a classroom of 20, 25, 30 students, another classroom of 20, 25, 30 students, another classroom of 20, 25, 30 students. And in each of them, you'll have a teacher, often at the front of the classroom, running class, lecturing in some way. Because every student is now working at their own pace at their own time and the teachers are now spending most of their time interacting with students, I could imagine a world where, why have these walls between classrooms? Why not just have one larger classroom? Now it's 70, 75, 90 students. And all three teachers work together. And so the teachers aren't isolated in their rooms. They're all able to tag team and play to each other's strengths. And the students will have the benefit-- instead of having the benefit of one, I guess, experience base and knowledge set, the students have the experience base of all of these teachers. And not only that, they'll also be tutoring each other. So in this model, it's all going from the teacher to the student. Here, it's going from teachers to multiple students and from students to students and maybe even students to teachers. So it's going from peer to peer and multiple teachers to multiple peers. And I think in this type of a model-- because the teacher's going to become that much more valuable, because now it is all interactive. There is no more passive lecture. There is no giving the same lecture every year. I think that the profession of teaching will become even more prestigious. So my big-- and I'm saying 2060, but I think this is going to happen over the next 10 to 15 years. So I think by 2020 or 2025 you're going to have-- the teaching profession is going to become at parity with professions like medicine or law or engineering in terms of how much of a teacher can make and how they are valued by society. So I predict in this reality teachers, based on today's money if you inflation-adjust it, are going to make $150,000 to $200,000 per year. And for any of those who say, wait, where's the money for $150,000 to $200,000 per year, you just should realize that right now most states-- even if you just focus on public schools-- are spending on the order of $10,000 a student. And even if you had a 25 to one student to teacher ratio, that means that you have-- so if you multiply it by 25 students, that means you have $250,000 for the teacher and the facilities and any other technology. And all I'm arguing for is that the master teachers, the ones that are really pushing the envelope here, should get a bulk of these resources, as opposed to layers of bureaucracy and whatever else. Now, the last prediction I'll make related to education right over here-- and it's related to all of this-- is because the actual cost of delivering a lot of the core material, a lot of the core practice, over here is going to go close to zero, because you'll really just need an internet connection and maybe your peers who are also learning alongside of you. And it'll become even better if you have a really amazing, experienced, professional teacher with you. But the fourth part of it is I believe we're going to get to a 99% global literacy rate, and we're already close to this in much of the developed world. But in the developing world, it's significantly below this. And obviously, you can imagine if we do get to this type of a literacy rate what that means for health care, what that means for population, what that means for economic growth, what that means for wars. I think this is a very, very, very positive thing. And coinciding with this idea that students around the world are able to get access to a world-class education, that it's like having clean drinking water or electricity, I think you start getting closer to a global meritocracy, where that student who, right now she might just be the daughter of beggars in some part of the developed world, but because she has access to this material and she can develop herself-- and people will know how she's developing herself, because all the data is being logged-- we can say, wow, she has the potential to really be one of the leaders in this creative class. She has the potential to find the cure for cancer or find a new way of doing X, Y, or Z. And so you really can give these students all over the world the opportunities that they really should have. And hopefully there will be a ton of opportunities, because the pie will have gotten so much bigger that we can support a lot of these creative endeavors.