On school education

What started as my innocent question as a regular comment on a post – whether international schools (read : schools with international standards and not international in the name) are affordable by upper middle class people? in India turned out to be sequence of more or less like an opinionated discussion based on certain facts that both of us know.

You can find where it all started here (My response was to last two paragraphs of the post).Lead to post of Pepper’s opinions based on certain facts here, that lead me to present my points of why I think that way and started explaining by giving some insights. The comment is still in moderation, but I think, you my dear readers might find it interesting to read, as I really spent quite some time in composing those thoughts with some research and conversation with a friend of mine.

All this will make sense, if you read the entirety of the thoughts posted in the links shared above, then only, does this response fit in the dialogue. Also, I am not a very strongly opinionated person, I change my opinions based on facts and what we currently have and can do versus what it is to be ideal, I prefer an open ended conversation on the same.

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Here was my response:

Thanks Pepper – I appreciate the thoughtfulness you put in your response – your perspective is always very interesting!

Your points are very agreeable – there are many low-quality government schools. The government should spend a larger percentage of money than it does on education, and in a more effective manner. Equal opportunity is generally accepted as a worthwhile goal.

I think I made a lot of points and maybe spread myself too thin. I think my main points should have been
1) Education is important for many, but it’s not right for everyone
2) There’s lots of non-traditional educational opportunities outside of school
3) There are limited resources that shouldn’t necessarily be diverted to education

I’ll start with the third point. You are 100% correct that there are low quality teachers and many of them are underpaid, especially considering how important they are to society. However, where are we going to get these high quality teachers that you are looking for? I think that you, with your thirst for knowledge, might be a great and inspirational teacher! However, if we take you out of your leadership position at your company, then the company might be worse off, people may lose jobs, and children will have a hard time thinking about school when there basic financial necessities are not met. Similarly, should we take doctors out of hospitals or disease researchers out of labs to teach basic skills? Kids will find it hard to study when they are ill. You can call education a fundamental right – what about clean drinking water, green energy, food, shelter etc.? There are many things we can agree are good, but we cannot say one thing is a “fundamental right” and prioritize it for free – prioritizing one initiative comes at the cost of all these other great initiatives unfortunately :-/

For my second point, I am still firm in my point regarding learning different trades, skills, etc. For us, we may have benefited professionally and personally from a well-rounded education at top schools. However, there are many people who will not benefit from school as much as they will from learning a trade, because it will result in better financial results for that person. By teaching a child classical philosophy, we might be stealing a child’s opportunity to learn farming or metal-smithing, which could deprive them of earning potential in the future. I understand your point that education should not be judged solely on practical application for making money. However, financial freedom is necessary to entertain the possibility of lifelong learning. A beggar cannot afford an internet connection to read the news or read Wikipedia. A person struggling to put food on the table will not read textbooks at night for leisure.

Finally, this leads me to my first point. Education is not right for everyone.

To take it a step further, some education is poisonous. Let’s take a simple Social Studies / History example (and most people might agree that history is an important subject, since “if you don’t pay attention to history, you are doomed to repeat it”). Let’s take the specific example of WWI. What was the cause of WWI? Most educated people would answer immediately “The death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the series of alliances between the European powers that caused a domino effect”. This falls apart at the earliest question. Is anyone really THAT popular that their death would cause a world war? The notion is ridiculous. Someone who knows history will have all these particular facts that explain all the Western wars, be it this dictator here or that extremist ideology there. In this case, the uneducated person is at an advantage – they can see “hey – the Americans and Europeans are a warlike people that always seem to be fighting and killing”. They won’t say “There’s Stalin here, Pol Pot there, Saddam in that instance, etc.” Education in this case is the trees that block the view of the forest.

However, a more benign example is exactly as stated in my earlier point about useful skills – if kids are spending their time considering our great philosophical quandaries, they are losing time that could be spent on developing marketable skills. Even worse, if a subject they deem boring is forced on them, they might grow to hate school in general. Even though I think that Calculus is a key skill that should be taught to all children, I’m sure many kids would hate going to the class despite its importance in engineering and science.

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In this whole process of writing this response, I found my self doing more work for a blog than was required, trying to explain what I think and how I perceive, although, this has been an interesting topic to chat about and getting different perspectives,  I am also aware that we discussing this topic on the internet will not solve the real problem. This topic is debatable and can go back and forth as long as possible and we end up agreeing on some and agree to disagree on some other points.

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4 thoughts on “On school education

  1. Thanks once again for your response, HP. Sorry I took a while to approve your comment. I was replying to it and that caused the slight delay.

    Also, thanks for engaging with me 🙂 I’ve always enjoyed polite debates and discussions. I too am always open to changing my opinions in general, which is why I like debates. They expose me to different view points.

    Unfortunately, in this subject, I feel so strongly that my views are unshakable. I will ofcourse, be thrilled to hear and understand why you disagree with me (after you read my response to your post / comment).. So please feel free to share the counter arguments you may have. Or if you would rather end this discussion, I will respect that too. 🙂 Once again, thanks !

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  2. Oooh, that is one very big debate going on there and I can see it from both points of view and perspectives. Obviously I am from the UK and not India so have no idea or experience of the education system in India but certainly from my own experience over here I don’t feel that as Pepper says that you can teach anyone how to think. As we grow and develop we are influenced by our parents and families, our circumstances as we grow, opportunities available to us outside school and are hugely influenced as we get older by our peers, perhaps more so than our parents. Yes, a particularly good teacher in a subject for which we have a keen interest may influence us and greatly broaden our horizons, but even here in the UK, as in all industries there’s the teachers who excel in their career and treat it more as a vocation than for the money or position but they are far outnumbered by those who are average, who do the job, hit the targets and pick up the paycheque but that’s as far as their interest goes.

    A report has recently been published after research found that English schoolchildren rank as some the most unhappiest children in the world. English children ranked 14th out of 15 countries for overall life satisfaction, just ahead of South Korea, and scored low for aspects related to their “self” and school.

    I quote a couple of paragraphs from the news article I read:

    “Whilst the findings do not indicate why children in England feel more unhappy than others, Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers blamed poor mental health on the “narrow curriculum” and “exam factories” culture in schools.

    Mr Courtney called on the Government to “consider seriously the impact of their policies on children’s well-being”.

    He said: ” Children can now expect to be branded ‘failures’ when barely into primary education, and many of those who undergo high-stakes tests and examinations at all stages of school life experience serious stress-related anxiety.”

    This is true. Education of our children here is dictated by testing, league tables for schools, targets to be reached for both teachers and children. Teachers constantly put under pressure to achieve targets with children who are unable to fulfil the criteria to allow the teachers to reach the targets are going to put more and more pressure on the children to succeed. Not every child has good academic abilities, our education system leaves no margin of error for children who can’t keep up or aren’t academically inclined. They suffer, they soon find they’re overlooked by teachers, but still expected to produce the homework and get the grades but with little help.

    Some say education is wasted on children. I have to say that to a certain extent I agree. I was never very interested at school. I never strived to achieve. Always average. Average exam results, and never went on to higher education. As I got to my 30’s then I developed a desire to learn new things, to improve my knowledge and to seek to learn. I don’t blame that late development on my education or my parents, it was me. Inherently lazy, I left homework and revising for exams to the last minute. I never stressed about exams, I either passed or I didn’t that was my attitude.

    I think what I’m trying to say is, all you can do is provide a child with a basic education, in a hopefully happy environment. The rest, as they say, is up to individual personality. The strivers will get there no matter what school they go to, the rest will develop in their own good time and some, sadly will never develop at all. I do apologise for writing almost a whole post just as a comment, I hope you don’t mind 🙂

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    • Yes, that is partially my point to get across too, that education is important, but there are many forms of education, not necessarily a school education. And you are right, how can one teach critical thinking skills, may be, to some extent you can, by making kids question and make them think, but mostly, it’s family, environment, self- experience and as one progresses in life, life teaches lessons and sometimes it’s observations and also there should be some intellectual capability to think at that level too isn’t?

      So, how do we define that basic education? What constitutes a basic education?

      Oh, no worries about lengthy comment, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I am glad you were able to see both perspectives and got the point. That is what I was trying to convey and i do not seem to do a good job at it. You have made many good points about the education in general. Partially, our indian standards of private school education is inherited from British after all? (I think so)

      Liked by 1 person

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