Education and Skills

Esports are being taught in schools. Could they give students useful workplace skills?

Competitive video gaming – also known as esports, or electronic sports – is finding its way into educational systems.

Competitive video gaming – also known as esports, or electronic sports – is finding its way into educational systems. Image: REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko

Ian Shine
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  • 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.

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."

Some skills that esports could teach.
Some skills that esports could teach. Image: World Economic Forum.

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


What is the World Economic Forum doing to improve digital intelligence in children?

  • 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. One example, is introduction of Esports.
Digital skills are becoming a key part of education. One example, is introduction of Esports. 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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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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Education and SkillsEmerging TechnologiesJobs and the Future of Work
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