Stanford academic predicts shift to new graduate skillset

The ‘idea of mastery’ and the ability to hone maths and reading skills will become less relevant to graduates of the future, compared with skills such as resilient minds and healthy bodies, critical thinking, collaboration, problem-solving, empathy, inclusion and global citizenship, according to the head of Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE).

Assessing the fast-changing technological landscape and its impact on higher education at this year’s Arizona State University and Global Silicon Valley (ASU+GSV) Summit held in San Diego, United States, on 17 April, GSE Dean Dan Schwartz, said: “We’re at an inflexion point about what we can do in learning”.

Future change would be fuelled by an influx of data, combined with innovative technologies, increased empiricism and a pressing need for solutions to tough problems, he said.

He said higher education should embrace, rather than shun, artificial intelligence and related modern technologies, such as the increasingly ubiquitous AI apps ChatGPT and GPT-4, the conference heard.

Technology can make a difference

That using tech can make a real difference has been illustrated by research at Stanford that assessed middle school performance and associated learning times, and showed how too little sleep by students was harming memory retention. The results persuaded California education authorities to start middle schools later in the morning, noted Schwartz.

Universities should react quickly to the potential of computational power that delivers such advances in an AI world, he said.

“Their speciality is long-term foundational research that changes the world but we’re not often the best at rapid response,” he noted, recalling that in the distant past, universities did not lead scientific revolutions, but rather protected dogma.

Christopher Shryock, senior vice-president and chief people officer at United States-based wholesale retailer Sam’s Club, told the Arizona State University (ASU) and Global Silicon Valley (GSV) event, staged from 17-19 April, that with AI, many jobs will “become automated away fast”.

He noted: “Months ago, nobody talked about ChatGPT. If you pull up the skills of the future, it’s all about critical thinking, innovation, creativity, resilience, the ability to lead and influence others – a lot of these softer skills….”

“Skills to get from liberal arts college will be the ones that differentiate successful from less successful organisations in the future,” something universities should consider, he said.

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