May 27, 2013
Back in the ‘stone age’ like someone said, our fathers typically passed on the skills necessary for survival to their children. Farming, hunting, trading, language, culture and such basic things. That was what constituted what we now call ‘Informal Education’. The principle was simple: equip the child with what he needs to survive and then thrive. Equip him to answer the questions life will throw at him rather than the questions thrown in a controlled examination hall.
These days education has become part of our culture; western, formal education. We learn to read and write, perform calculations, history of other nations, complex mathematics, literature from Europe and the like. Often the poor child gets what he needs to get a job: a certificate that is. But the original principle of education is not really about getting a job is it? Our fathers resorted to getting jobs such as teaching back in the day because it appeared more lucrative. They may be right though because of the massive culture shifts over the centuries.
Let us look at it another way: in recent times more and more emphasis is being placed on soft skills, communication skills, emotional intelligence and such non-technical concepts because technology is everywhere now and what required a lot of brain power to do in the past now requires just a little effort as well as a whole lot of the human touch to do it effectively and beat the competitor in the market place. Most skilled professionals are quite easily replaceable (skilled in terms of technical skills).
I believe education should be tailored to address what people really need to survive and thrive in the context of the current trend of events otherwise the years spent in school would be wasted years. Education should equip the student to solve his/her environment’s current problems and create new solutions for future problems. Education should put the trends in the world at the fingertips of the student. He needs to learn Chinese, computing, management, people skills. He needs to learn about his own culture, government, his country’s history. He needs to learn not just what gets him a job but what gives him the capacity to thrive outside the mainstream job market.
It has been said over and over that the smartest people in class often don’t build businesses; they are busy solving equations for others. True that we have different kinds of people with different gifts but some skills are absent because they were either not learnt or not even visible in the student’s horizon. Education has value if it prepares the child to thrive in the current dispensation. Make sure your children are learning what is necessary.