First of all, let me make it perfectly clear that, the purpose of this article is not to denounce or dispel the importance of education. In fact, it is quite the contrary. The whole idea is to encourage readers to change the approach to learning; to see education as more than just a basic, class-confined process because it is more than that. “It is a process that brings people to, as full a realization as possible, of what it is to be a human being and what capability and potential remains untapped in each one of us. Other statements of education have also been widely accepted: to develop the intellect, to serve social needs, to contribute to the economy, to create an effective workforce, to prepare students for a job or career, to promote a particular social or political system. These purposes offered are undesirably limited in scope, and in some instances they conflict with the broad purpose I have indicated; they imply a distorted human existence. The broader humanistic purpose includes all of them, and goes beyond them, for it seeks to encompass all the dimensions of human experience.” Arthur W. Foshay, “The Curriculum Matrix: Transcendence and Mathematics,” Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 1991
From an early age, I was constantly reminded about the importance of education. I believed that life is education and that without it, I am good as nothing. However, this was particularly frustrating to me as a child because I did not like school and was one of those pretty much ‘unlucky’ kids who did not understand the point of a science experiment or Isaac Newton’s law of motion. To me, school was a wearying grind than an adventure. I recall my very first day at school when my grade 1 teacher told me I would have more fun than I did in kindergarten but roughly a week later, I was scolded for talking in class.
Hours of daydreaming during class strung between waking up, getting ready and then coming back home to play then later sleep. Frankly, I did not see the point of the routine and when I miraculously graduated into high school after a teeth-grinding process of pushing myself beyond limits and spending sleepless nights cramming huge textbooks, I found that nothing had changed; if anything school had become a nightmare that leached out all my interest to learn.
In high school, our chairs and tables were bolted to the floor. We had an isolated sitting arrangement and were not allowed to talk in class. If you failed to comprehend a concept, you were ridiculed for that and poor performance was an equivalent of an unpardonable sin. Above all, we were not allowed to be creative or question anything because there was always one right answer. The experience was enormously dreadful to bear, especially for someone like me who could not effortlessly grasp all the pure physics formulas and calculus. On several accounts, I found myself contemplating dropping out of school but totally clueless as to where I would head to or what I would do next because after all, my mind was programmed to believe there is no life beyond school.
My long yearned escape to a different life trajectory was confirmed when I witnessed relatives and many graduates roaming the streets in search for jobs. I began to question a lot of things. If education is indeed a powerful weapon to overcome poverty and change the world for the better, then why are people jobless? Why do universities produce more jobless graduates than employees, employers, pioneers and leaders? Why are governments constantly battling surging unemployment rates despite huge endeavours done to educate people? What if this very weapon is the root cause of all the chaos soaring? And what if there is another alternative?
My inquisitive mind probed further, in search for answers until I truly came to understand and embrace the true meaning of what education is; lifelong learning, growth and holistic empowerment of the mind.
Nelson Mandela was right: Education is indeed the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world. However, anything viable becomes useless if it’s used for the wrong purposes, in an imprecise context. Similarly,
“the purpose of education has changed from that of producing a literate society to that of producing a learning society. It is not the learning of fact but the training of the mind to think.”
Margaret Ammons, “Purpose and Program, How Does Commitment Today Differ from That in Other Periods,” Educational Leadership, October 1964
This idea came to life as I carefully observed society and saw how almost everything had changed. In the past, good grades could buy you the whole world but of recent, even research testifies that, individuals doing the most; upending the status quo and changing the world in revolutionary ways never graduated as valedictorians, (Robert Kiyosaki, Why Valedictorians Fail, April 2013).
Success in the real world requires a different kind of thinking. “The world belongs to those who can embrace change, see the future and anticipate its needs, and respond to new opportunities and challenges with creativity and agility and passion”- and that is the kind of education I am referring to. “One that is not a preparation for life, but is life itself.” John Dewey
School typically rewards conformity and obedience, which means that students who consistently do what they are told, without questioning are more likely to succeed. These are individuals who typically settle into the system instead of shaking it up. Unfortunately academic grades loosely correlate with success in the real world, as they are merely a measure of the ability to comply with rules, (Eric Barker, What happened to your class valedictorians, May 2017).
These rules rarely apply and become obsolete, in the real life, marred by constant change. Hence, for education to successfully change the world, it should empower individuals with the right mindsets that can tackle and solve real-life problems. Additionally, education is a practical-based than theoretical form of learning. It turns mirrors into windows for opportunities and goes an extra mile of not ‘just learning’ about molecules and atoms but also critically analyzes how such concepts can be applied, say maybe in biotechnology, to make useful products.
As mentioned, it is something that goes beyond curriculum and class content. It’s holistic; an educated mind is fully present in the moment. It is aware of all things that impact the world such as politics, climate change, different cultures etc. It is also persistent in becoming better; whether at a skill, talent, course and practically use that for ‘good’ benefit. I emphasize on ‘good’ benefit because education, as stated, empowers the mind, not only for being woke but to pursue sound actions and decisions as a result of making an assessment of the good and bad implications.
On many accounts, media gives us examples of renowned entrepreneurs and leaders like Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Jack Ma etc as epitome of seasoned and savvy individuals who pursued their passions and made massive, larger than life breaks. While it is completely true, it is worth-noting that the course which they followed- Entrepreneurship – does not define what education is. It is merely, a subset of Education.
Individuals who pursue medicine, science, law or any other course are just as relevant and important as those who lead businesses. They have an imperative role in society and they help in curing societal and institutional voids. It’s one thing to understand and allow education to nurture different talents and abilities and the other, to appreciate Education as a broad and infinite expression of talents, capabilities and potential. If people are given a platform that focuses chiefly on cultivating holistic growth, as opposed to placing them on a levelled plane and waiting to see who will catch the fattest worm, then the world will begin to witness the monumental impact of Education. Such can be driven by a huge paradigm shift in the approach to education; moving from the thinking that it is only class-based, changing set-up of classrooms to encourage interaction and sharing of ideas, allowing students to freely communicate, challenge assumptions, ask questions and follow their true passions; changing how questions are framed to allow for as multiple, critically-thought possible solutions that do not demand definite answers, appreciating different learning urges and creating safe learning spaces that permit access to free learning regardless of economic or social strata.
read Women at work
In her TEDtalk, Tina Seelig explores this ideas and more. She also highlights that one of the prime reasons why the traditional education system is failing us is because, it does not change as the world evolves. Therefore, it has become stale in today’s context where the world has morphed into virtual economies, currencies and state. Technology has, undoubtedly, shaped the world; people can sit in a classroom at the comfort of their homes through smart e-learning, an implication that learning takes place everywhere. There is access to vast information with only a tap on the mobile. Artificial Intelligence has blossomed and so much development is still reeking, and more jobs are on the brink of ending. No time, has ever been as important as now, to unlearn the old things and learn new ways of adapting. The world still needs educated minds, that can foresee challenges, invest sustainably in the future and soar above in the transformation that is taking place. But to attain that, learning has to become a daily habit. Only then, will education be the key to success.
African Leadership University