Order by which we “learn”?

Over the past few years I have become surprisingly critical of the education system. That is, we are all taught stock-standard classes with standardised content in a boring and simplified way – this is at least how it is from school through to undergrad level university.

I am much against this type of education for two reasons:

  1. Lack of Innovation and Spontaneity – In a systematised, standardised and conventional system there is no way to make content interesting, compelling and engaging. How can students be motivated to learn, absorb information and form opinions when the content is boring and delivered to them in an uninteresting manner?
  2. Students are Commodities – The university system (especially undergraduate level) is so standardised now, that any and all students come out of university with a degree that does NOT set them apart. That was is the goal of tertiary education; to separate the talented change-makers from those that are not. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. Students come out with a degree and join the millions of other job-seekers with degrees out in the work force. They are forced to take the worst jobs out there that fit with their mediochre educations and live non-thrilling and non-enriched lives. What a terrible outcome!

I believe the system has become truly destructive. We focus on filling the students (our future leaders) with useless information that has no real relevance and application to real life. When in reality we should be teaching them to find information, learn to apply that to real world scenarios and most importantly focus our attention on teaching them to problem-solve and innovate.

The internet is available to each and every one of us and there is no need to absorb the information that is readily available to every other person on the globe. What will set us apart from our colleagues and peers is how we find that information, how we use it and how we create positive change with it.

I suppose the biggest disappointment I have with the education system is that it focuses on (in my opinion) the least important factor – educational content. I believe that to be truly successful, we must create a life filled with passion!

We must have a job that fulfils that passion, we must have a family that shares in our passion, we must have friends and acquaintances that add to our passion. Teaching our students how to find their passion, focus on it, equip themselves with the skills to monetise it and give them a can-do attitude, I believe, is the future of education;  the right way,  right now.

I had a thought earlier today regarding lectures at university, and perhaps that we “educate” in the wrong order.

Currently, a student

  1. Attends a lecture
  2. Is told to read particular information from textbooks and news articles
  3. Is advised to do further reading on the subject using their own effort and ability
  4. Writes a test/examination and passes/fails
  5. Regardless of whether that information is interesting or compelling for them on a personal level. (“Is this my passion?”)

How I educate myself today is almost the opposite:  I read a lot of news and opinion.

Much of the news is focused on business related information, sustainability and social media, but occasionally I am exposed to a new interesting area that I want to explore further.

  • (5)  Once I find an area I would like to focus on – I am passionate about
  • (3)  I delve deeper; I find more articles and read more background information on the subject from other sources
  • (1)  If I am lucky I will find a lecture that pertains to the area I am looking into.
  • (4)  Finally, if I feel like testing myself, I become an active contributor to opinion on the subject; engaging on related posts, twitter, Facebook and in general conversations.
  • So, for me the order has changed from being told what to study and read, to finding what interests me, and pursuing that information.

    I believe that passion drives knowledge; a student that is passionate and interested in a particular subject will delve deeper, read more and equip themselves with more knowledge on a subject, than a non-passionate student. This is why I know it is more powerful to encourage others to follow their passion than to force them to conform to educational rigour and obtaining a degree.

    What do you think? How do you “educate” yourself? What do you think of the current and future educational systems? Please comment below.

    If you liked this post, these are related posts from the past:

    Education in Conflict – http://justinryanscott.com/2010/06/21/education-in-conflict/

    Equality? Or equal opportunity? - http://justinryanscott.com/2010/09/13/equality-or-equal-opportunity/

    Forming an Opinion – http://justinryanscott.com/2010/08/30/forming-an-opinion/

    A society og generalists http://justinryanscott.com/2010/11/29/generalists/

    11 Comments to “Order by which we “learn”?”

    Great post Justin!

    I share the same view as you. The education system doesn’t provide a particularly effective learning environment. We are taught what to know, not how to know.

    Learning I believe is one of the most (if not the most) important skills. In fact self-education one of the main topics of blog I will be launching soon. At school, at university, we are never properly taught how to learn for ourselves effectively. As you have listed it in your post it becomes a system, and you can succeed at school and university merely by beating the system.

    Learn only what is going to be in the exam, write your answers and essays exactly how the markers want them – you do exactly what the paper wants and you get the marks. This is not how the real world works; but most importantly it is not open learning (the final exam is the end for that subject) and it doesn’t create students who are passionate about learning.

    So in this society where students finish university with a similar degree, the ones who differentiate themselves, who will become the change-makers are those who are passionate and learn outside the system.

    January 1, 2011 Reply

    Great comment Jonathan! I am eager to see the day when people such as you and I are a dime a dozen. Imagine a world where every person is passionate in the pursuit of knowledge (of self-determined importance) and where everyone can ENJOY their lives. When can I expect to see this new blog? Cheers man!

    January 1, 2011 Reply

    I think that would be great too! With the production of new knowledge increasing a rapid rate, people need to be able to learn and be passionate about it otherwise they will be left behind.

    I am working on the new blog at the moment and hope to have it up and running by the end of January. Need to have about 3 months content written before I launch. Will let you know when it’s ready so you can check it out :)

    January 3, 2011 Reply

    Excellent, can’t wait Jonathan. I am glad you are prepared enough to make sure you have 3 months worth ready! Good work!

    January 3, 2011 Reply


    January 3, 2011

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jonathan Wrait, Justin Scott. Justin Scott said: Order by which we "learn"? – http://bit.ly/ekzqzt via @justinvitallink #jrsrecommends [...]

    January 1, 2011 Reply

    Because I wasn’t the typical school student, my school years were hard. I was made to believe that I wasn’t capable of achieving anything because my grades didn’t excel and I wasn’t an ‘academic’. Rubbish! Schools don’t understand that there are multiple ways of learning and each can be successful, you just have to know how to teach that student in the way that they understand (and learn).

    January 5, 2011 Reply

    And even more so, what to teach that student. I am reading “The Element” by Sir Ken Robinson right now, and he makes a very good point, that often we focus on teaching our kids the wrong thing. For example, my brother is not particularly good with academics, but he is star sportsman. Why should he be shunned by teachers and told that he “isn’t good enough” for not scoring high on silly tests and exams (which have no relevance to how the real world works)? He gets the recognition for his sporting abilities, but academia is still valued higher. In my opinion, it is sports and extra-curricula that should be the highest value; they teach leadership, teamwork, people skills, core values like determination, goal-setting, competition and communication. Those are real skills and values that translate to real life.

    Oh and don’t worry Jase, doing poorly at school has turned out great for you. You’re not half bad :P Thanks for commenting!

    January 6, 2011 Reply

    Aww, thanks J – that makes all the difference.

    January 6, 2011 Reply

    That is very true Jason. Everyone has a unique learning style but many students (and teachers) never try and find out what theirs is because people have already labelled them as failures.

    The impressions people like parents, teachers, and peers have of a student can have a huge impact on their academic success or failure. This view that they are “dumb” can become a self-fulfilling prophecy for the student which leads them less likely to keep trying and more likely to fail. Which reinforces the original views of the parents/teachers/peers, thus starting a vicious cycle.

    Of course this can work in reverse as a very famous study done by Rosenthal and Jacobson in 1968 showed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmalion_effect#Rosenthal-Jacobson_study.

    I strongly believe that everyone has the gifts and skills to be successful whether it is at academics or something else, but it does start with confidence and self-belief; something that is sadly lost by many people during their school years.

    January 6, 2011 Reply

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jonathan Wrait. Jonathan Wrait said: RT @justinvitallink: School kills self-belief | Excellent comment by @jwrait on Order by which we "learn"? http://bit.ly/gNgmyj via @jus … [...]

    January 17, 2011 Reply

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