A blog by Metolo Foyet
I once watched a video on Youtube titled “why I hate school but love education”. It suggested that the difference between school and education should be acknowledged.
So, is classical, school-based learning essential to succeeding in life? There are many real-life stories across generations, of successful people who never stepped into a classroom or who dropped out along the way. In Africa, there used to be a song about the importance of school. It rhymed ‘diploma-less’ with ‘useless’. Interestingly, the messages in this song are being challenged and altered today.
We have an increasing number of young CEOs and founders whose academic profile may not fit the expectations of postgraduate achievements. And they have demonstrated that they are intelligent, innovative and blessed with business acumen. In fact, the debate around who is smarter and why, is nothing more than an Alice in Wonderland fairytale. It is very entertaining to watch, and it massages the egos of those who feel they live on the greener side of academic attainment. But do degree certificates really determine an individual’s success? What matters at the end of the day, many will argue, is how much money you are making, and how effectively you are managing that income.
As a matter of fact, as American businessman Robert Kiyosaki highlighted, there are many examples of A students whose bosses are C students. He certainly had a point when he suggested that success is least about good grades, especially when you consider how flawed education systems have been found to be, giving you fish rather than teaching you how to fish.
Furthermore, a 2020 UN report highlighted a problem, not just with global unemployment, but also with worldwide “underemployment”. The combined figure of these two, they said was half a billion.
But despite unemployed graduates being a reality, it is generally accepted that having a degree increases your earning potential. According to statistics in the US, the average weekly earnings of a college graduate is $1,310 compared to the average $726 a high school graduate without a degree gets per week. But making a global pronouncement about the relationship between education and social mobility is tricky. From my research, there appears to be a lack of data, and complexities, which are hard to unpick.
Rather than a declaration, the UN’s World Social Report 2020, poses a question – is “education: the great equalizer?”. It also points out that “in practice, improving access to education does not always result in lower inequality”.
One thing the current global pandemic has taught is the importance of innovations in learning. This should really challenge our beliefs and ideologies about education and school. Learning is not limited to classrooms. Actually, there are many so-called soft-skills, which are critical to success, such as problem-solving, self-motivation, determination, leadership and decisiveness that are mainly acquired outside of classrooms. They are, in fact, taught in the ‘school of life’.
My conclusion then is that school-based education is critically important in accessing information, learning to build and manage relationships, and in attaining soft skills. However, within our flawed education systems, which are plagued with inequalities and which do not always cater to every type of learner, we have to be careful about making a definitive link between academic attainment and intelligence, success, earning potential, prospects, and social mobility. It’s just not that clear-cut.
So it is not about writing off schools, but about examining how we can improve them and how we can expand education beyond classrooms. How can we make sure that those with disabilities, those in remote areas, those who facing social or family challenges, those who are left-brained, and those who are right-brained all have access to quality, eclectic education that will help them to achieve their full potential?
That is the challenge that has been set by our globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals, and which we must strive towards.
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