Alibaba's former executive chairman Jack Ma (R) attends the Forbes Global CEO conference 2019 in Singapore, on Oct. 15, 2019. (Xinhua/Then Chih Wey)
SINGAPORE, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- Alibaba founder Jack Ma said that his biggest mission in the coming future will be to look at ways at how education can be done differently and to empower young entrepreneurs in Africa, in his role as the founder of the Jack Ma Foundation.
Ma was speaking at a dialogue with Steve Forbes, chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media, at the high-profile Forbes Global CEO Conference 2019 held at the Shangri-La Hotel Singapore Tuesday night.
Last month, Jack Ma officially stepped down as group chairman of Alibaba, handing over the position to the company CEO Daniel Zhang. The retired business magnate, who initially began his career as a teacher, said he would be spending more time and energy on education, philanthropy and environmental protection.
Ma said the current education system still reinforces the old, industrial-period style of education, where children passively receive the knowledge in the classroom. Instead, the reality is that many young children are getting their knowledge through the Internet, while machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) can process the information, memorize and calculate faster and better than human beings.
In order to survive in the AI period, a lot more can be done to revamp the education to change the type and way content is taught, and for children to be independent, critical thinkers who are innovative and creative, said Ma.
"You never learn wisdom from the classroom. Wisdom, you only learn through a tough life ... In the classroom, you only learn about knowledge, but life is about experience," said Ma, who added that he will spend the next year "thinking it through" and visiting more countries and schools to study the different models.
Outlining his vision, Ma said that beyond subjects like maths and physics, other subjects like music, painting, dancing and sports are equally important as they teach people how to be artists, to use their "heart", "imagination" and to know the rhythm. "This is the human knowledge ... and I want more people to do more things on that," he said.
Another important aspect is to teach young entrepreneurs to learn how companies fail.
Explaining the reason why he gives case studies of failed or bankrupt companies to his staff, Ma said, "When they learn too much (about success stories), they think they can easily succeed. But going into business is like going into the battlefield ... only those who survive win."
"So when you learn the failure cases, you know how to face these mistakes, how to solve it and challenge it. This is wisdom and this is what we should teach our kids."
Ma also outlined his plans for Africa, where he plans to work to empower the young entrepreneurs there and help "discover" more Jack Mas, Bill Gates, Warren Buffetts and Steve Jobs, which can go a long way in uplifting Africa. Recalling how he first visited Africa four years ago, he said he was impressed by how smart the young entrepreneurs were and their mobile-first culture.
Unlike most entrepreneurs in other countries who just aim for IPO (initial public offering), the entrepreneurs in Africa are "different" because they have a vision "to change Africa" and their lives, he said.
The goal is to make these African entrepreneurs the "heroes," because entrepreneurs are the "most important element to develop a society," said Ma, adding that more can be done to support female African entrepreneurs as well.
"In Africa, we need three Es: e-government, to make the government transparent; entrepreneurs, make them heroes; and education, make the people know what they want and what they don't want," he said.
"That's why it's my great honour to go there and do something ... It may not be successful, but at least we tried. So that's where I want to go," said Ma.
As the world enters a new era of change, Ma said that the important thing is to work with young people, as they represent the future. "When you work with most of the successful people, they only talk about yesterday," he said.
While other countries has had a long history of building their philanthropic scene and foundations, China is just beginning to do so, said Ma, who vowed to be among the first to pave the way of creating such an infrastructure or system in China.
"I believe that China, one day, hundreds of thousands of business people will build up their own charity or foundation ... We need a way, so I will be the guy who is testing that and I will share the (mistakes I make)," he said.
On the legacy and vision he left at Alibaba, Ma said it is the spirit of entrepreneurship and creating and the belief that technology will give people a better future.
"We always think about what we can do to solve the social problems, instead of complaining. That's the journey. And I'm having great fun, when you see millions of people's lives changed."
Themed "Transcending the Turbulence," the prestigious conference is an annual gathering for some 400 global CEOs, tycoons, entrepreneurs, investors and thought leaders to discuss key issues of global concern and build new partnerships. At the event, Ma was presented with the Malcolm S. Forbes Lifetime Achievement Award.