educationdPublic education has made powerful economic and social contributions (sustainability, increasing the average skill level in reading, writing, math etc).  However the educational system over the past several decades hasn’t continued adapting and changing along with society, instead opting to apply unfittingly old paradigms and ignoring brand new problems.

In today’s world, a university or college degree doesn’t  guarantee a job or financial stability. Many students graduate from their post-secondary studies with mountains of debt, and find it extremely difficult to find a full-time job within their field. More than 60% of college graduates currently can’t find work within their field of study.

Aside from economic benefits, there is also a cultural role for education: public schools successfully continue to condition individuals, and indoctrinate them into the civic religion. The public education-machine has become a bureaucratic mess, and instead of the main objective being to prepare the children to take on the future, the U.S. federal government (along with its many international copycats) prioritizes establishing further restrictions, and waters-down the system by flooding it with rules and regulations, stifling creativity and instead implementing a rigid criteria and standardization which can hurt students rather then help them.

Legislation such as the No Child Left Behind Act has contributed to millions of children being left behind, and students and schools that need the funding most don’t get adequately  financed. Currently, only 59% of the students in the largest 50 U.S. cities graduate from high school. While it is true that an experience is only as valuable as you make it, the evidence remains that the U.S. educational system is failing too many people. The system is faulted in that it is not based on diversity, but it is one of conformity with a narrow spectrum of achievement.

Education is personal and should strive to cater to the individual. People are driven by different interests and passions, different skills, abilities, and predispositions: we are beautifully diverse and even two siblings can have drastically different personalities.  Instead of a system which is designed to have the masses conform, wouldn’t a system which was fitted to the interests and strengths of the child be more effective?

schoolWhat should be said of the many children who don’t enjoy school, the ones who aren’t receiving any real benefit from it? Classroom style teaching doesn’t suit every student, and many can solve real tangible problems far better than these same problems had they been confronted on a test. Wouldn’t it be better for them to be able to pursue other alternatives, those which would foster their individual interests and strengths?

A real education should be well-rounded, not simply focused on math and sciences, but also on the myriad of other skills and knowledge which isn’t normally found in an academic setting, such as identifying edible and poisonous plants. Why shouldn’t we teach our children to embrace a variety of their interests and talents? If a young girl knows at an early age that she wants to be a dancer, or a painter, why can’t she create and cater her education to suit her passion and preferred lifestyle? In the same breath we should ask if a teacher who is talented in stress management, negotiation, or other areas, shouldn’t be encouraged to bring their strengths into the classroom. Why should both teachers and students be forced to ignore their individual prowess, and be instead encouraged to learn for a test?

International advisor on education, Sir Ken Robinson, proposes 3 principles in which human life flourishes; human beings are naturally diverse, human beings are naturally curious, and human life is inherently creative. Robinson makes the distinction that children are most successful when they can embrace their talents, and are not when they are limited to a very narrow view.

If there is no learning going on, then there is no education occurring. The role of the teacher is to facilitate learning, and the public factory education system has become more focused on testing, without an emphasis being placed on using those exams as the diagnostic tools they were originally intended to be. The tests should support learning for the child instead of obstructing it. Standardization becomes the output in the factory-education model currently being used, and the child is the one who suffers.

school3In contrast to the American method, Finland only has one mandatory standardized test which is taken by citizens at the age of 16. Impressively, 66% of the nations high school students in end up going on to college, and 93% of all Finns successfully graduate from high school (17.5% higher than the United States).

One reason for high youth unemployment across the world – and particularly in developing countries – is a growing mismatch between the supply and demand for skills. Students aren’t developing skills that can be valued as much in today’s economy.Having a degree for the sake of having a degree means nothing if you have no actual skills that you can apply to a job, and this is why many find themselves struggling to get hired after graduating from school.

The public education system also fails in neglecting to teach children about being healthy. Why don’t schools teach children how to manage money, understand ecosystems, or to meditate? Surely that is a skill which will be very valuable to them later on in their life. The current system fails to teach kids how to be happy, how to think positively, and how to sustain overall health. These are valuable skills that we need to develop in our life, why should they be considered any less important than basic math or literacy skills?

This is all changing quite rapidly and radically however, as students and parents have begun to grasp the potential of the internet for revolutionizing education. Homeschooling is also rapidly increasing all around the world, as more families opt out of the standardized model of education and aim for something more suited to the needs and interests of their child. The internet has made it possible for people to educate themselves, independently or in groups large and small, on an unprecedented scale. When it comes to education, we don’t have to think in rigid traditional terms. When we know everything we do helps condition our brains, is it not absurd to continue conditioning our children to sit still for long periods, feign interest, and follow orders blindly?