In 2019, the toy production firm Lego surveyed 3000 kids (8-12 year old) in the USA, the UK and China to find their dream career. Surprisingly, the US and the UK kids’ first choice was to be a YouTuber/Vlogger while Chinese kids wish to be an astronaut. Although it was not a large-scale study, the indications are alarming in an influencer based generation where ‘Likes’ and TikTok videos are celebrated more than anything else.
Kids are even targeted at schools by many big companies as easy customers who question less and can be manipulated by flashy games. Introducing advanced technologies and digital media have been promoted as the best way of progress in schools. Companies have created sophisticated marketing techniques to sell expensive products, study plans and software for exams. Parents are tempted to think that new technologies will make kids smarter and help them in learning. There are always updates; apps are designed in such a way that parents need to buy new devices every few years. Students need to go for online services for doing their homework. This is a huge market where the effectiveness of these technologies are rarely challenged, and tax payers’ money is used without any real accountability.
Armored with all of these new technologies, what we are finding is that American high school math and science education is weaker than that of many other developed countries. It allows kids to graduate with too much freedom by hampering their long-term future. In 2018, Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), administered the global test which disclosed that the US students ranked 30th in math falling behind Estonia, 8th in reading, and 11th in science among 64 countries. The consistent failure even bothered the current secretary of education, Betsy DeVos who made sharp remarks.
The use of excess technologies is not only meaningless but also often counterproductive. Expert opinions of eye doctors and developmental psychologists have been neglected for years in this field. The eye strain, neck problem, headache, obesity, sleeping problem and delay in development are related to the excessive screen time. It is unlikely that kids will give up watching TV or playing online games, because they are using tablets in their schools. In many EU countries, extensive technology based education is discouraged. For example, in 2018, France banned use of cell phones by students up to the eighth grade to improve the quality of education inside the classrooms. Besides, without ensuring data privacy, many of the addictive apps are tracking behavior of the individual kids in the USA which is not so easy under EU privacy laws. In many other parts of the world, poverty is protecting their kids from getting digital mental fatigues
The tech industry is well-aware of the products they are making. It is true that reducing the learning gap is closely related to the availability of the high speed internet service. But that does not justify to develop an entire education system based on the subscription mode with few players in a multi-billion dollar market. Unfortunately, this issue is an underrated one, and now played by the industry itself in the guise of nonprofits, success story telling and paid consultants. Unfortunately, kids are the guinea pigs in this experiment.
The world is much bigger than the screen and the apps installed in the virtual world. What might work statistically for some students in learning does not replace the need of human interactions with kindness and empathy. Often, parents are not aware of the hidden talents of their children that are shadowed by tech based products. The child might need help from parents to flourish the hidden potential. Unless someone cracks it through, massive spending in education is just a loss of money. Feel free to contact me if you wish to discuss about your child’s future, and how you can ignite curiosity beyond schools so that s/he becomes interested in his/her career.