Esports are being taught in schools. Could they give students useful workplace skills?
EDUCATION, SKILLS AND LEARNING
By Ian Shine
Competitive video gaming – also known as esports, or electronic sports – is finding its way into educational systems.
Advocates say it can teach skills such as teamwork, leadership, communication, problem-solving and strategic thinking.
It is also helping to get school refusers back into the classroom in Japan.
Education has to evolve to include digital technologies, but schools need to ensure they still encourage real-life interactions and personal engagement, the World Economic Forum points out.
Competitive video gaming – also known as esports, or electronic sports – is finding its way into educational systems. Japan has just opened its first esports high school, and education publisher Pearson has worked with the British Esports Federation to develop the world’s first esports qualification.
But is it really educational?
“Esports is not [sitting] in your bedroom playing on your own in the dark eating crisps; it’s teams of people playing against teams of people in a competitive environment,” Tom Dore of the British Esports Federation told website Which School Advisor. “Through that, you can develop all the same holistic character development skills that you would in any other school extra-curricular team activity such as traditional sport, music or drama. Teamwork, leadership, communication, problem-solving and strategic thinking can all be developed by playing esports as part of a team.”
Problem-solving abilities and technology skills are increasingly in demand from employers. Image: World Economic Forum.
These are some of the top skills that employers believe will grow in prominence in the coming years, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report.
The benefits of esports in schools
Japan’s Esports High School is mixing traditional school work with intensive video game training. “It was founded with the intention of feeding the growing global demand for professional gamers,” says The New York Times, but notes that teachers also encourage students to pursue related careers in programming or design.
The school’s unorthodox approach has also had an unexpected side effect – it is helping get school refusers back into the classroom. This includes teenagers who find the normal school environment unstimulating, or some who have stopped going to school because of bullying.
The esports school is fitted out with large monitors and high-spec PCs. It is run with support from gaming company NTTe-Sports, and the lessons cover genres from first-person shooters to real-time strategy and multiplayer online battle arenas.
The school does not have uniforms, and classes start later than at normal schools, but it says it meets national education standards. “Our goal is to provide students with skills that can be used not just in competitive gaming, but in a variety of ways,” it says.
Skills that esports can teach
In the UK, the British Esports Federation has teamed up with the College of Esports to develop a degree programme. The institution offers degrees in areas from games design to international esports business and esports coaching and management.
Nurturing talent – preparing students for a career or further study by providing them with skills of enquiry through an interdisciplinary curriculum.
Building resilience – providing students with the competencies needed to adapt and thrive in employment within life’s continuously changing environments, and an increasingly diverse global society.
The World Economic Forum report Catalysing Education 4.0: Investing in the Future of Learning for a Human-Centric Recovery says that there should be more exploration into technology’s potential role in fostering social and emotional learning.
Digital skills are becoming a key part of education. Image: World Economic Forum.
“Screens and digital technologies are now a consistent feature of many children’s daily lives – and thus of their education and learning environments,” the report states. “Digital technologies can be a valuable tool in a child’s development. What matters is to avoid situations in which children become passive recipients, leaving less room for creativity, personal engagement, real-life interactions and play.”
US technology company Intel says that game-based learning has been shown to offer “many cognitive, behavioural and social benefits”, including boosting self-esteem, raising academic performance and increasing focus and engagement … all things of which any educator could approve.
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