My friend's daughter got accused of being ADHD a few weeks back. My colleague Dinesh is keen to take his son Aravind out of school. My friend Sandeep is trying to build software that recognises every child to be a unique individual with their own little achievements. I see a growing sentiment in my friends circle about the current state of education and it's impact on young minds. I don't have a kid, but I can only dread being a kid in this climate. It's a hostile environment that teaches kids to master a curriculum but not to learn. It makes kids competitive but teaches them very little about collaborating, about being better citizens, better people. I have a few thoughts about education and I want to share them with you - it's a real scam.
What is this model based on?
"If Isaac Newton had done YouTube videos on calculus, I wouldn't have to. " - Salman Khan
We've predicated our model of education on a system that presupposes that kids need to go to school to gain knowledge. It is based on the assumption that knowledge is scarce and you need an expert to dole it out. Except the person who your kid learns from is not really an expert. That person is a middleman. Knowledge is not scarce anymore. You could learn the guitar from a really successful, best selling artist. Using your computer. Not in school. Actually, you couldn't learn from the best selling artist in school. School is really a bit of a deterrent when it comes to learning from an expert. Yet, school is still all about that old model which isn't true anymore. Kids can learn sitting at home, using a service like Khan Academy. School doesn't teach people what our ancestors learnt - applying knowledge to the real world. School instead is preparing people only to clear the next exam.
Life skills? Not a chance?
Success is in the doing. And failures are celebrated and analyzed. Problems become puzzles and obstacles disappear. - Gever Tulley
My nephew is 12 years old. He ranks first in class each year. Awesome eh? More information - he is overweight, he plays no sports, he can't have a real world conversation beyond his textbooks and couldn't survive if his parents were away for even a couple of days. Is that what education is supposed to mean? What about experiencing life and learning real life skills? Where are the tinkering schools of the world? Why isn't every school helping children learn like Diana Laufenberg does?
We learn to succeed despite education
Children quickly learn to navigate and go in and find things which interest them. And when you've got interest, then you have education. - Arthur C. Clarke
I work in a job that I never received any formal education for. I'm quite happy about that frankly. Let me give you an example so you understand why. In school I was deeply interested in plants, animals and birds. But to tell you the truth, the biological names and academic knowledge behind them was of little interest to me. I could spend hours at Alipore zoo admiring the animals in my backyard but to remember a tiger as Panthera Tigris was beyond me. Unfortunately to have an education in nature, I needed to cut up frogs, fish and cockroaches in the lab which I avoided like the plague. I quit biology studies in 11th grade because I just couldn't take it anymore. Why couldn't I just learn about natural history as I do today? I've learnt more about birds and animals as an adult than I did with formal education in school. To me, my self-supervised hours in the field mean a lot more than the supervised hours I had in school. I got educated out of my interests in school and it's no wonder that I'm my current job is miles from what I actually studied to be. Children are wonderful - they have the natural ability to learn if left to their own interests, the internet and the resources they'll need to support their passion. Sugata Mitra's hole in the wall project proves it.
Current schools depress me. There's great thinking in various circles about the future of education, but we're not there yet. And it troubles me that my nephews and nieces, my friends' children and kids I care for may have to go through a generation of poor education. I wonder how this'll change - I'm very cynical about this whole scam we call education. I wonder what you think. Especially if you're in India, I'd love to hear your thoughts.