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  • Jenny Anderson

Jack Ma's take on education: IQ, EQ, and LQ

  • Speaking at OECD conference, the retired head of Alibaba said students would need three Qs to succeed: EQ, IQ and LQ - the quotient of love

  • His ideas on how to reform education included investing more in early childhood, when kids are building skills and values, and less in universities

  • Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, retired from the Chinese e-commerce giant in September to focus on education, which he calls the “most important and critical issue” of our time. His concern: the world is changing fast, but education is not.

His formula, however, is not to focus on curriculum or accountability, but on students’ capacity to love.

“If you want to be successful, you should have very high EQ, a way to get on with people,” he said at an OECD conference this month, using the shorthand for emotional intelligence. “If you don’t want to lose quickly, you should have good IQ,” he added. But “if you want to be respected, you should have LQ—the quotient of love,” he concluded. “The brain will be replaced by machines, but machines can never replace your heart.”

If this sounds a bit corny, it fit well with the theme of the day at the conference in Paris, where the OECD released the latest results of its worldwide test of 15-year-olds and discussed how to move education systems from traditional exam factories to places where kids learn content, but also self-knowledge, empathy, teamwork and agency.

Andreas Schleicher, the reform-minded head of the OECD’s education unit, applauded Ma’s “radical” approach. Educators talk about the need for holistic reform a lot, but business leaders more often focus on education as a means to train future workers (rather than nurture well-rounded humans). Schleicher said Ma’s key message was spot on: we’ve spent a lot of effort on how we feed people—that is, the education they receive—but not enough on what we feed them.


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