Institute of Directors: Schools must avoid becoming "exam factories" to compete with robots, automation and technological change

Francesca Washtell
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General Election - Education
Schools must adapt away from becoming "exam factories" according to the IoD (Source: Getty)

Up to 15m jobs are at risk from the rise of automation, the Institute of Directors (IoD) has warned, and a huge shift is needed in the way we think about education in order for the UK to adapt to the unstoppable force of technological change.

The focus of our school system must be altered if it is to give today's students "the best chance to get ahead in a future in which more and more work is taken over by robots or computers", according to a new report released today by IoD.

This would mean placing less emphasis on pupils' ability to recall information, which the IoD has said is the easiest skill to automate, as current UK education policy is at risk of turning schools into "exam factories".

Instead, schools should focus on how to apply knowledge to boost soft skills in a market that no longer rewards workers primarily for what they know, but for what they can do with what they know.

In addition, the IoD is also advising the government to shift guidance away from CV writing towards genuine, tailored advice on how to succeed in the workplace and to increase the use of technology in education, including the use of "Massive Open Online Courses" (Moocs) to reduce costs and give more people access.

"The basic structure of the UK education system dates from the mid-19th century, and has changed little since. Pupils are still tested on their ability to recall facts and apply standardised methods, two things computers do much better than humans," Seamus Nevin, head of employment and skills at the IoD and author of the report, said.

"Technology is already integral to most jobs, but it will increasingly take on tasks that can currently only be done by people. Robots have shown they can complete repetitive, physical labour with great speed and precision, but computers are also increasingly able replicate many of our complex cognitive skills.

"This does not mean an economy without jobs, but it does mean future employees will have to be adept at working alongside technology. Technical knowledge is important, but the role of education cannot be just to enable children to pass tests, it must instead teach pupils how to apply this knowledge."

In addition to changes to the curriculum and teaching methods, many present workers must also be prepared to retrain. The IoD has recommended the government introduce tax incentives to encourage workers to return to education and make it easier for employers to invest in their staff.

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