There’s something inherently wrong about our current system of education, and it’s not just me. Many top field educators are feeling it, and so are many of the students who go through it.
There are already many well-established problems with education which are simply not addressed because the solutions are too radical to make changes without half the world having a stroke about it. These problems are typically linked with the fact that modern education is based on an older system which was used to produce uniform, thoughtless robots instead of creative individuals. In the industrial age, this was what was required. A person trained in one country had to be able to interpret the administrative work of a person in a totally different country. The easiest solution to this challenge was to create a standardised global education system that was, for all intents and purposes, the same.
But the industrial age is over. Super-user-friendly software makes information sharing easy. We all know that. Alas, the old system remains. What the world desperately needs now, more than ever, is a generation of intelligent, innovative thinkers who can produce the new ideas and technology we need to sustain our way of life, because it’s not going to be this good forever. What was previously considered the field of logical thinkers is now recognised correctly as the playground of those who can dream new inventions seemingly out of nothing, and go about transforming those ideas into something tangible and helpful only after that initial process. Industry is no longer all about mass production, making processes cost-effective, or streamlining the work process. It is now primarily about thinking of something better than what already exists. Once you’ve done that, it doesn’t matter how wasteful your company is, you’re going to roll in money.
The most productive technology companies on the frontier of revolutionising human life already know this. Companies like Google aren’t interested in regimented work hours, matching uniforms and strict discipline. They have been bold enough to discard everything associated with a traditional workplace. Google replaces its chairs with bean bags and its stairs with slides. Its offices look like a playground for children, with vibrant colours everywhere. I daresay it’s an attempt to undo the creative damage done during school.
But this isn’t where it ends. These are the traditional problems with education, but what about the more abstract skills schools teach? I was glad to hear that some schools are replacing certain writing training courses for young children with typing classes. That’s a promising step in post-modernising an education system designed for a world that existed 200 years ago.
New propositions include teaching children to use research and computers to find information, rather than asking them to learn it. I believe a test should never ask a child to repeat information. It’s not helpful, not in an age where information is so cheap and easy to find. What could they possibly do with that information in their heads instead of in their phones? I dream of the day that children sit down in a history test and are asked to use the internet and their skills of information finding to critically analyse a historical event.
I hope this will be a reality one day. But what’s even better than that? What do schools condition out of children? The answer: the ability to co-operate. Children are taught from day one never to speak during tests. Asking for help or giving it is considered cheating. I say that’s wrong. I think a child’s ability to complete the questions on a test should be based on his resourcefulness at finding that information within a certain time constraint. That includes working in makeshift teams, and schools make half-arsed attempts at group work, but it’s token. The vast majority of a school experience is solitary, and that is deeply flawed. A person will work with other people more often than work alone, and I think people’s innate ability to co-operate would be vastly improved if schools pulled themselves together and understood that individual ability can only be improved when multiple individuals with their own idiosyncrasies are thrust into a socially demanding environment. It is imperative that educational institutions attempt to develop and streamline this skill, which is otherwise forced to develop in the workplace at the cost of a company.
This is simply an introductory post to enlighten you, the reader, of the broader underlying problems in our education system. Many more will follow, detailing the more specific areas which need refinement or radical change and showing you some of the myriad solutions that have been proposed. Stick around for more on the subject.