We currently don't have the silver bullet to education. We're not quite sure what works and what doesn't. Maybe it's because we all learn differently. But whatever the reason, "personalized learning" is on the right track -- and Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg think so too.

We can all acknowledge the downfalls of our education system: It's rigid, doesn't promote creativity on the whole, and is increasingly not providing us with the right skills for entering the work force. With 61 percent of Americans dissatisfied with their education system, clearly there is an appetite for radical change to it. In the realm of economics, this is a pertinent issue: With youth employment not making any significant advances and an ever more fractured society, if kids are coming out of school with the wrong skills, and therefore not getting jobs, this isn't exactly going to make society a better place.

Cue "personalized learning." One of the reasons personalized learning is so great is because it encourages independence, which we know is a key trait of successful entrepreneurs. Instead of having teachers hold students' hands every step of the way, like current teaching methods do, personalized learning is very much sink or swim: When you sink, teachers will dive in, but until then they'll watch you go (but not in a sadistic way). This enables kids to work and learn at their own pace, as opposed to being either left behind or kept behind in the current education system. It encourages lots of feedback sessions with the teachers to further the personalization of the method.

Gates and Zuckerberg are funding a $12 million initiative to support personalized learning across the U.S. The Gates Foundation funded a detailed study on 11,000 students at 62 schools using personalized-learning approaches. The result? The students performed significantly better in math and reading than those at traditional schools.

So what can entrepreneurs learn from this? I think the adult equivalent is don't micromanage. Let employees figure things out for themselves, and this will be beneficial to them and the company. If you micromanage people on a task, they won't think for themselves, and maybe they could have thought up a better way of doing that task.

Socrates asserts that philosophy came about because people wondered -- and this seems to be the crux of personalized learning. Let kids' minds wander off first, and help them carve out their own path as opposed to forcing them all down the same one, which might not be suited to them. So let's all take a leaf out of Socrates's book -- "To find yourself, think for yourself."

Published on: Oct 3, 2017
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