Sunday 1 January 2012

What education?

Is education dead?

I think it probably is!

As an old fuddy-duddy fifty-something it is easy to dismiss the education system as not being as good as it was when I was a lad. Nostalgia has a habit of distorting perception. But I do worry about the way we educate our young people these days. And, that last sentence is part of the problem.

No amount of money could have ever persuaded me to become a teacher. I am full of admiration for anyone who teaches. It can’t be an easy job. The poor souls are knocked by government, industry and the gutter-press constantly. I suspect most teachers do a great job under very difficult circumstances and in my opinion should be freed from much of the checking and measurement of their performance that is the order of the day. Teachers and teaching are not the problem with education.

The main problem with the education system these days as far as I can see is that it doesn’t educate, it just equips people with skills. In my opinion education, which incidentally should be a lifelong process, should be about the discovery and understanding of knowledge for knowledge’s sake, and not about training individuals solely as job fodder. A society where people go to university just to get a good job is a morally bankrupt society.

The right to learn and indeed the desire to learn should be a lifelong process and not something that you get out of the way in your formative years. In fact I would venture to suggest that too much emphasis is put on education at a young age. There is far too much emphasis on growing up at a very young age which is bizarre given how life expectancy continues to increase. Education should be a much more fluid process than it currently is and with less emphasis on ending, or course completion. The mechanics of learning need to be given a much higher priority as well. Getting the right answers is all well and good but communicating how you got there is equally important. The edges between learning, working, leisure and retirement need to be blurred so that it is hard to tell where one starts and another finishes. And, opportunities for learning need to be equal and open and available to all.

Life and learning are intertwined journeys. Getting off at the first stop for either shouldn’t really be a voluntary option.

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