Mission.io Blog

Is Traditional Education Dooming Future Generations?

Recently, I had the honor of joining a leading educator podcast as a guest. The host posed a compelling question that has since lingered in my mind: "If you could give one piece of advice to teachers or suggest one pivotal change to impact education profoundly, what would it be?"

A year ago, my response would have been markedly different, but the landscape of education—and indeed the world—has shifted dramatically.

In the last 18 months, the rapid advancement of AI technology and the subsequent upheavals in global workforces have unveiled a trend that is impossible to ignore. Even as these technologies remain in their nascent stages, major corporations are already redefining employment by increasingly leaning on automation, hinting at a future where many traditional skills may become redundant (e.g. the International Monetary Fund revealing that up to 60% of jobs in advanced economies are at risk).

Given this backdrop, my advice to educators today is unequivocal: prioritize the cultivation of uniquely human skills with the same fervor you apply to teaching foundational literacies. As AI continues to evolve, the true challenge will be ensuring our students are not just capable but exceptional in areas that machines cannot replicate.

AI excels phenomenally in tasks involving basic literacy and numeracy. This isn’t just theoretical; it’s evidenced by the significant job displacements we've witnessed across industries where roles centered around basic reading, writing, and arithmetic are becoming increasingly automated.

This trend is alarming, especially when you consider the current state of our education in these areas. The level at which we teach these foundational skills—often not even enough to pass standardized tests—is precisely where AI thrives. This stark realization brings us to a critical junction: the simplicity and predictability of our foundational curricula have inadvertently made them the low-hanging fruit for early-stage AI, which is already proving to be a more efficient substitute in roles that require such basic skills.

As artificial intelligence continues its relentless advance, becoming ever more sophisticated and entrenched in every aspect of our lives, the true battleground for human relevance in the workforce is becoming clearer. The most valuable assets in an AI-dominated future won't be the skills that machines can replicate, but rather those innately human skills that AI cannot.

This emerging reality necessitates a significant pivot in educational strategy. We can no longer afford to focus solely on the traditional foundational literacies—reading, writing, and arithmetic—as the core of our educational systems. While these skills remain important, they position our students on a precarious edge where the rapidly advancing capabilities of AI are poised to overshadow human competencies in these areas.

A recent report by the World Economic Forum in their Future of Jobs 2023 underscores this shift. While the classic "three R's" still make the list of necessary skills, they now rank below 24 other skills that are in higher demand and more critical for future job markets. This indicates a pressing need to broaden our educational goals beyond the basics, which are increasingly at risk of automation.

Future of jobs (1)

We must redefine our approach, emphasizing the cultivation of uniquely human capabilities that foster creativity, problem-solving, and interpersonal dynamics — skills that are far less susceptible to automation. The imperative for educators is clear: shift the focus from teaching to merely survive in a world where foundational skills are automated to empowering students to thrive by leveraging their human strengths.

1. Identify and Develop Missing (Yet Crucial) Skills

The list of essential skills for future readiness may seem extensive, but through our research and practical application at Mission.io, we've identified a core set that educators can feasibly integrate into daily activities, lessons, and curricula. These skills include:

  • Creativity: Encouraging innovative problem-solving and new approaches
  • Collaboration: Teaching students to work effectively and harmoniously in teams
  • Critical Thinking: Cultivating the ability to analyze and evaluate complex issues
  • Adaptability: Preparing students to cope with change and uncertainty
  • Leadership: Inspiring and guiding others to achieve common goals

We are passionate about this list and have dedicated our work to helping educators embed these skills into the educational process through innovative gamification and experiential design. It’s crucial for educators to evaluate their teaching materials and activities to ensure they foster these skills. If an activity doesn’t help significantly address at least one point on this list, it’s time to rethink and innovate.

2. Broaden the Definition of Skills to Encompass All Aspects of Human Capability

It's time to expand our understanding of what constitutes a skill in the educational context. Traditionally, skills like communication and leadership are often seen as secondary, learned indirectly through sports and extracurricular activities. However, to truly prepare our students for a future dominated by automation, these skills must be recognized as central, not peripheral, to education.

  • Integrate Human Skills into Core Pedagogy: Instead of adding another separate area of focus to educators' plates, we need to broaden our view of what essential skills entail, making the development of human skills as fundamental as reading, writing, and arithmetic. This holistic approach ensures that every lesson contributes not only to academic knowledge but also to building the character and capabilities that machines cannot replicate.
  • Elevate Foundational Literacies: By redefining skills, we also enhance the traditional core subjects. Reading, writing, and arithmetic should not be taught merely to pass tests but as evolving skills that empower students to interact with the world more effectively.
    • Communicative Writing: Shift the focus from merely producing grammatically correct sentences to crafting messages that persuade, inform, and engage, regardless of spelling perfection.
    • Purposeful Mathematics: Encourage students to apply mathematical concepts to solve real-world problems, not just to memorize formulas and equations.
  • Cultivate an Environment of Continuous Skill Development: Viewing all educational content through the lens of skill development changes the narrative from merely achieving grade-level benchmarks to fostering lifelong learning and adaptability. This perspective turns the classroom into a dynamic environment where every task, every lesson, and every interaction is an opportunity to develop the human skills that differentiate our students from automated systems.

By integrating this broader concept of skills into every facet of education, we prepare students to excel academically and lead, innovate, and thrive in an increasingly automated world. This commitment to developing comprehensive human skills will ensure that our students are not merely competent but truly capable and irreplaceable.


As we stand on the brink of unprecedented technological advancement, the stakes for education have never been higher. The rapid encroachment of automation and AI into every sector underscores a pivotal truth: merely equipping students with basic literacy and numeracy skills is no longer sufficient. If we continue down this path, we risk preparing a generation that is not only unprepared for the future but is also alarmingly replaceable.

To avert this potential disaster, we must redefine what it means to be educated in the 21st century. We must ensure that the development of robust, uniquely human skills — creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, adaptability, and leadership — become as foundational to our educational systems as the traditional three R's. This is not merely an enhancement of the curriculum; it is a necessary evolution to secure a future where our students are the creators, innovators, and leaders who will harness technology, not be overshadowed by it.

  • Embrace a Holistic Skills Framework: Educators must broaden their approach, integrating human skills seamlessly with academic learning. Every lesson should be an opportunity to develop the competencies that distinguish humans from machines.
  • Prioritize Skills Over Memorization: Shift the educational focus from memorizing facts to applying knowledge in complex, real-world situations. This shift not only prepares students for the challenges of tomorrow but also makes learning more engaging and relevant.
  • Foster Continuous Learning: Create an educational environment that values growth and curiosity over rote learning. By nurturing a mindset that views education as a lifelong journey, we prepare students for the fluidity and dynamism of the future workforce.

In conclusion, if we want our students to thrive in a world where AI and automation are ubiquitous, we need to act swiftly and decisively. By re-envisioning the core of our educational practices to focus on developing the full spectrum of human capabilities, we can prevent a generation from becoming obsolete. The time to adjust our sails is now as the future will belong to those who are prepared to innovate, adapt, and lead. Let's ensure that our students are among them.