Understanding The Current Education System Properly, And Why Change Is Needed

Posted on June 7, 2012 in Education

By Mahanshu Prashar:

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. ~Albert Einstein

The need to change our current education system, the way we define educating people needs an urgent revamp. The tech savvy generation which has all the information on their finger tips is hungry and eager to bring breakthroughs, bringing the future of Sci-fi to present. All we have to do is to find a way to channelize their immense capability to right lines. These times are unprecedented in human history, vast human capital and powerful information sharing networks combine the intellect of billions of mind to create a global Mega Mind. This can be used to solve all the problems of humanity.

Going by the college drop outs rates in developed economies and the general disinterest in the present education system of the youth, the administrators and society needs to have a hard look at its education policies and frame work. This generation especially in growing economies of the world in South America and South Asia is young, vibrant and full of talent. This vast human capital needs to be tapped for building our nations. Mere governmental allocation of billions of dollars in education sector won’t achieve the transformation required. It is observed by many great Scholars like Sir Ken Robinson that the present system of education having a set pattern of School to College then Professional practice kills creativity. According to him it doesn’t let the individual realize his true potential. These views are worth pondering on because we are a Human Society which must strive to provide opportunity to every single individual to pursue what he/she wants in whatever way they want.

It may be argued that the present education system allows a lot of freedom by providing multi-disciplinary courses in Colleges and Universities. But don’t you think it is also in one way not that personal? In the end you have to choose what courses are offered to you and you can’t decide the course material. The education system of future must be Personal, Something an Individual can use to develop the skills he/ she desire to have.

The present state run education system somehow forces education on young minds. They have to learn Maths, Science and Languages to be successful. This kills the inherent brilliance which they possess. They have to learn subjects which they may not like but finds application in the real world hence the government thinks it must be taught. Now-a-days new technology, web based teaching is being used but all of this won’t achieve our objective to develop a more capable, skilled race of humanity.

The present education system of dispensing knowledge faces one more challenge from Knowledge itself. According to statistics, the advance in any field which used to happen in 100 years happens in a 10 year period now and this time period is only decreasing.

The knowledge base of any field doubles 5 times in 5 years, the time you take to complete a course of study. This is a very startling fact indeed, something which must prompt for a quick review in the whole system.

“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows. ~Sydney J. Harris

The entire model for our education system is built on Industrial Age beliefs about supply and demand that no longer hold true. Earlier the aim of education was to get people jobs to find them a place in the economic set up. But, this is not the case anymore a college degree doesn’t guarantee a job. Even if it you do get a job young people do not find many of them meaningful and in sync with their own personal identity and goals. The rapid acceleration of technology, population growth and the shifting of power throughout the world make it impossible to predict the “needs” that our society and economy will have even 5 years from now. Yet, we still believe that if everyone is good at math and science, we’ll be fine. Meanwhile, the arts suffer everywhere. As they don’t form part of the applied sciences to the extent engineering or maths do.

For all this to change the whole society’s view towards need a change. There must not be a transformation as the main title suggests because it won’t do enough to cater to the need of the changing times. We need a revolution of sorts, a complete Paradigm shift in the way we look at education.

The need to study in batches based on the year in which you are born makes no sense as it makes the college a manufacturing unit with products having dates. Humans are not meant to be designed to fit in a corporate set up just for the sake of economic development. Majority of young professionals admit that they dislike their jobs or at least they don’t like it. So we need to make education meaningful which is enjoyable and not a burden to be carried to attain livelihood. This is a hard task which needs deep brain storming and commitment from both society and government.

As far as education is concerned as said before we must realize that,

  1. Education is extremely personal — everyone is unique and different in their interests, talents and learning styles
  2. Human talents are buried deep — teachers must be adept at finding and nurturing these aptitudes
  3. It will take more than competency in the “Stem disciplines” to make our country prospers in future.

Children of today are bombarded by information from everywhere, Internet, TV, Bill boards, stage shows etc. There are an increasing number of children suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). This is becoming an epidemic and needs focus. The challenge is to make education specially math and science as pleasing as a newly launched computer game. Making it interactive, lot of practical training and doing away with standardized tests is the way to go. There is a big argument by various educators that standardization of education though helpful in making masses literate kills creativity. We are making burdening children by these standardized tests. There is a practice world over of conducting strict entrance examinations for various top universities like for example India has one such very tough exam which is conducted just after school to give admissions to the top university of India i.e. the IITs . This exam is given by half a million kids and out of these only top 3000 is selected.

The present system makes students aspire for professional degrees thereby neglecting arts. Arts were means of aesthetic experience, Philosophy, music, literature were taught to enhance ‘human’ experience. But the education of today is anesthetic one, it takes away your creative abilities. There is a need to promote divergent thinking by giving emphasis on innovation which will lead to hundreds of invention going by the tools available today and the vast human capital. All problems can be solved if you educate a child right a famous person has said. So, we should concentrate on improving education infrastructure and approach.

The final piece I’d like to quickly add, is in regards to the joy and pleasure of learning. The reality is that in this age we will never be able to stop learning and, upon reaching a certain age, we become responsible for educating ourselves. It has now become a process that literally never breaks. Some focus needs to be placed on making the process fun, and maybe this comes through personalization, but today’s kids don’t see learning as fun, and more and more they’re also seeing that it doesn’t even guarantee them meaningful employment. So, what’s the point? I’m reminded of the Arrested Development episode where George Michael leaves public school to attend a “new-age feel-goodness”. Perhaps we need to move in that direction just a tad, don’t you think?

And to end with a quote,

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~John Dewey