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BBC Future

60 Second Idea

Learn that failure is good

Each week a global thinker from the worlds of philosophy, science, psychology or the arts is given a minute to put forward a radical, inspiring or controversial idea – no matter how improbable – that they believe would change the world.

This week, Neil Sjoberg, a youth worker and golf course manager from London suggests introducing a new subject at school called learning to lose.

"For most of us in the working world, failure is a normal part of everyday life. Developing the skills to cope with failure is the key to personal success throughout life. But teachers at schools make pupils feel equally talented, because this makes them popular with the parents and pupils.

"Schools avoid regular testing and rote learning. Some don’t spilt up year groups according to academic ability and give prizes to every child at sports day. Pupils therefore leave school vulnerable with a false sense of achievement, and they are frustrated and angry when they do not immediately succeed in the real working world.

"So my solution is to introduce a compulsory “learning to lose” subject for all children, with a failure exam that they have to pass. Children would be told what their ranking is against the national average and then write about where they think they did worst.

"Children need to be taught that failure is frequent and normal, it is not the end of the world and we should all help this by a cultural shift in admitting that we failed. Only by learning to lose can we achieve success."

You can listen to Neil discuss his idea in more detail on the BBC World Service programme The Forum, where you can also download more 60-second ideas.

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