Jack Ma (R) attends the Forbes Global CEO conference 2019 in Singapore.
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.
In September, 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.
Outlining his vision, Ma said that beyond subjects like math 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."
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 changeAfrica" 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.
"That's why it's my great honor 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 have 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.
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." Said Ma.