The Generation Alpha, children born between the years 2010 to 2025, are considered to be the most technological-infused demographic up to date.
Generation Alpha is the first generation entirely born within the 21st century. By 2025, the year when the youngest Alphas are born, the Alphas will account to two billion of the global population.
By 2030, the first children of the Generation Alpha will be 20 years old. Between 2035 and 2040, the Alphas are going to be in charge of positions of leadership and power around the world.
Perhaps, some of them will be part of the SpaceX missions to the first human settlements on Mars. How are they going to get there if the educational system doesn't change?
Then the question arises: How are the educational institutions preparing the generation that is going to co-live with robots and AI, to have autonomous vehicles driving them around smart cities while they are having meetings powered by Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality?
The Alphas is the generation that is going to experience daily all the technology trends that we are following closely today. That is their future.
From SpaceX to Ad Astra and back to SpaceX
So, how a successful entrepreneur, engineer, and innovator gets involved in pioneering the way schools should be preparing the generation that is perhaps going to populate Mars and explore the stars?
Simple. When realizing their own children were not receiving the education he expected, Elon Musk found a solution. That is how you do it. You solve the problem. You create the solution.
In 2014, Elon Musk pulled all his five children out from their private school. By doing this, he gave the first step in changing the future of education. The first step was to unschool them and to create a little school according to their needs for the future. The school was conveniently created in the SpaceX facilities in California. Can you think of the coolest place on Earth?
As someone with a vision into the future and someone working exclusively toward building the technologies that are going to be essential in the daily life of the Alphas, Elon Musk knows that the traditional school system is not working any longer.
In fact, the traditional school system has been outdated for a few decades now. Unless traditional education dramatically changes and changes fast, it will definitely be useless for Generation Alpha children and the ones before them.
Why the current educational system fails today's students
The current educational system has been outdated for a long time. If this continues, it will leave many students seriously unprepared for the rapidly changing future.
It is important to consider that being prepared for the future is different than what it was considered being prepared in the past.
"If homework is "practice” then why do we get graded on it?" - Ali-A 2, commented on 6 Problems with Our Education System on YouTube
From Ad Astra School to SpaceX, and then to Mars?
In Latin, Ad Astra means 'to the stars.' Ad Astra is about achieving great things. The statement is perfectly aligned with everything Elon Musk does and builds.
According to the school's admission statement, their admission process is designed to identify students between eight and thirteen years old.
Even though the school is in California and they strongly prefer residence in Los Angeles, the school makes it clear they consider students from all zip codes.
Creativity is encouraged when students are submitting their admission application. The responses to any of the school's admission questions can be in any format the student prefers: Written, audio/visual, artistic, digital, or something else. In terms of creativity, for the Ad Astra School, the sky is the limit.
Ad Astra: The beginning
Initially, Ad Astra was started as a form of homeschooling for Elon Musk's children and the children of SpaceX's employees. the Ad Astra School quickly got the attention of some other parents who share Musk's views on how the education of their children should be.
"It's important to teach problem solving." -Elon Musk
Critical thinking and problem solving are two things that the Ad Astra School values and promotes in its classes. There is a conversation where the kids debate real-world scenarios of things that they could eventually face in the future.
Elon Musk believes in teaching to the problem and not to the tools. His example is about putting apart an engine and then finding the tools that are needed to fix it.
Another practical example could be to choose the best possible action in the scenario where an AI turns evil. Ethics are greatly emphasized. And, for sure, the ethics of Artificial Intelligence will play a fundamental role in the future.
"The kids really love going to school. That's a good sign. I hated going to school when I was a kid. It was torture. They think that vacations are too long and they want to go back to school." - Elon Musk
For Elon Musk and for some other people, it is clear that the ethical implications of advancing technology have to be addressed from the start.
In an interview with Beijing Television in 2015, Elon Musk said that there are no grades at Ad Astra because some people like English, some people like mathematics, and people like different things at different times.
Ad Astra sounds more like a place where individual strengths and personal preference are discovered, encouraged, and respected rather than having all the students in a kind of factory assembly line where children were expected to come out all the same at the same time, like a design product.
This system could perhaps work in the past when people were being prepared for factory work in the Industrial Revolution. But the needs in the Fourth Industrial Revolution are quite different.
"People have different abilities at different times. It makes more sense to cater the education to match their aptitudes and abilities." -Elon Musk
To cater the education to match their aptitudes and abilities. That's Elon Musk's principle, according to what he said in the interview with Beijing Television, and it makes total sense.
The Ad Astra school is focused on teaching children problem-solving, reasoning, and creative thinking.
Once they have mastered these skills, they are going to be really useful in their future, wherever their future may take them.
No more thought control
Generations of children have asked for a change in education for decades. Rarely anyone listened to them. Who will listen now?