Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
January 28, 2022

Kids Need To Learn How To Learn

John Tan, CEO, Doyobi
2 min read

The ability to learn how to learn, or meta learning, is arguably the most important skill every child needs to master. In a world where technology is making existing jobs disappear and creating new jobs that don’t yet exist, formal education from K12 through to higher ed simply cannot keep up. Twenty years of studying followed by forty years of working does not work anymore. For anyone to be employable, they need to be constantly learning and upskilling themselves throughout their career.

Schools focus on helping kids learn how to take exams.

Before we dive into meta learning, let’s talk about what kids actually learn in school. Schools do an incredibly important job of teaching kids literacy and numeracy skills, without which there is really not much any child can learn or do. But as kids progress through grade levels, the emphasis in the classroom is on preparing kids to demonstrate retention of knowledge (aka how to answer exam questions). The curriculum load is such that teachers barely have time to cover all the material, much less think about how to get kids to become skilled at learning on their own.

Meta learning helps kids understand how to apply knowledge.

Meta learning is defined as an awareness and understanding of the phenomenon of learning itself as opposed to subject knowledge. In other words, an understanding of how one learns, an appreciation of knowledge gained, and figuring out what to do with what you know. Take coding as an example. A child with meta learning skills knows how they learn best (watching instructional videos, reading how-to books etc), picks up coding on their own (possibly with guidance from an adult), then writes code to build something useful.

Employers don’t care about what you know. They care about what you can do with what you know.

As a startup founder who is constantly hiring, I can say with some level of conviction that what a candidate knows is almost entirely irrelevant. The best candidates don’t talk about what they know. They tell prospective employers what they have done in the past, what they have learnt along the way, and what else they can do.

Meta learning is too important a skill to leave to schools. Helping your child engage effectively in meta learning is one of the greatest gifts you can give as a parent.

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