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Education system: success or learning? Education system: success or learning?
by Joseph Gatt
2019-05-31 08:19:40
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The problem with me is I always wanted to learn in an education system that defined you by how much you learn, not how much you succeed. Placing first on each test, then becoming a doctor is what defined your success. I wanted to become a teacher, because teaching is what I thought was the only profession where you could teach and learn without focusing on success.

coll0001_400If you grow up wanting to become a teacher, good luck finding a girlfriend. Staying single was fine by me, as I could spend my free time learning, then trying to impress girls with what I had learned, and always failed to impress them. It didn't matter how much you knew or how much you wanted to learn, being top of the class was what defined success. By the way if you became a doctor by acing every test yet learned nothing, I don't want you to handle me as a patient.

So today's education system measures success by the accuracy of knowledge rather than by the fluency of knowledge. That is you need to memorize everything to the letter, and any lapse or gap in your memorization will eliminate you from your race to success. The more accurately you memorize, the higher you will score, the higher you will be ranked, the more likely you will become a doctor, which is the measure of success.

However, if you are fluent in a subject, that is you have vast knowledge of the subject and can discuss the intricacies of the subject, you are not sure to rank high. For example if I speak fluent Spanish, know enough physics to solve physics problems, know enough math to solve math problems, or know enough biology to cure diseases, I am not guaranteed success. The only way I am sure to succeed is if I memorize the teacher's notes to the letter, and regurgitate the notes with exactitude on test day.

So today's teachers become teachers because they failed at becoming doctors or lawyers, or because they want a flexible job that grants them lots of vacation and free evenings. To become French teachers, they read Hugo and Proust, and don't always learn how to lead a French conversation with non-native speakers. It's Garcia Marquez or Vargas Llosa to become Spanish teachers, while physics teachers memorize a series of theorems that they don't always understand. History teachers memorize cold facts about the Renaissance, the Cold War or the Middle Ages that they forget the minute they become teachers.

So the education system measures success, not learning. You learn how to become number 1 at tests, train to become number 1, so you can rank number 1 overall and either become a doctor or some kind of glorified engineer. The problem is those who finish number 1 aren't even celebrated. We don't hear about them in the news, and the only reward they tend to get is a scholarship to fund their medical studies.

What about those who want to learn? As teachers teach to the test, teachers often tell you that students don't need to learn the facts that students need to know the facts on test day. What happens to the facts after test day is not the teacher's business.

So those who want to learn are bored in class, in a classroom where aiming for success is the norm. And that's where unskilled labor comes in. In many countries, there's a big shortage of skilled labor. Problem is, school is mandatory until the age of 16. So you're telling me that 50% or 60% of the population spent 10 years at schools and learned nothing that can help them find a job?

I remember a friend of mine telling me “no one wants their children to become plumbers or construction workers, everyone wants their children to become doctors.” So we have an elitist school  system that gives those who want to become medical doctors a chance, yet those who want to become plumbers or construction site leaders no chance.

In my opinion if you want to become a medical doctor that's an excellent choice, but you have to be passionate about learning in the medical field. But the school system should give everyone, or at least almost everyone, some kind of skill they can use on the job market.

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