Some people ask us if we are worried that our kid may not learn much because she is not going to school. Their primary worry is that she may not be able to find a job without education. Our worry on the other hand is that kids these days are spending so much energy on learning things that may not even interest them. And worst of all, they may end up with a job that they don’t like to do because they have a degree in an education that wasn’t of their own interest.
Of course this does not apply to all kids. Some perhaps were educated in the field of their interest. But it is extremely rare for a kid to find their interest in a particular stream at an early age. Even more rare is the fact that their interest will remain the same as they age. As we grow, our tastes change and what we thought we will become at a young age may not be relevant later in life.
Learning by yourself
Perhaps one way to solve the problem is to teach kids everything. Teach the topics that they currently like and also in the future as their tastes change. But we cannot teach everything to kids now can we? There is a reason we specialize in a particular subject as we age. The reason is that we cannot learn everything. So what is a better way? Well, if the kids have the ability to learn by themselves what they like, that will be the best way.
As an example, take my case. I spent several years specializing in electrical engineering during my undergrad education. And yet, I soon realized that I liked computers and started learning that instead. Later I switched my stream to computer engineering in my Masters. And after spending several years as a software engineer, I am now interested again in electrical engineering. So the interests keep changing. I am not sure if this is applicable to everyone, but certainly occurred to me.
The strange thing is I don’t remember much from my college days. What I am learning now sticks much better and I am enjoying the process rather than to just pass exams. This happened recently when I started building my DIY 5.1 AVR. I am reading the same electronics subjects that I learned earlier in college. But the joy is quite different. What you learn in college is not related to what you end up doing.
Why are we not learning?
The problem with today’s education system is that the learning happens without context. You learn to solve really complex second order partial differential equations for example. However you have no idea where you will use them or why you are learning the equations. The knowledge you gain by applying is the one that sticks with you. One of the problems of this kind of learning is that it is boring.
The other problem is that you will not be able to recollect what you learned just the previous year. This is particularly a problem with the specialized education which starts after class 12 or so. Perhaps this is not such a problem if you are pursuing research. But it is a problem for all the folks who like to apply their learning in real world.
India followed the Gurukul system until Lord Macauley changed everything for us. The Gurukul system was such a great way to learn things. The system was focused on applied knowledge instead of bookish knowledge. The students used to learn by group discussions and self learning with lots of physical activity. The most important thing for me is the practical knowledge. For this very reason, I love the apprentice system of Germany. Today’s schools measure your test taking skills and the actual job tests your work skills.
I am also a strong supporter of children learning to pay for their education and any interests they have in life from a young age. I don’t like the idea of parents supporting kid’s education expenses. Kids these days are pampered so much and given many things without any hard work. That worries me quite a bit. How will they ever face the real world? Kids are very capable from a very young age. They just need a chance. If you liked what I had to write so far in this post, you might find the following video interesting, which was also the inspiration for this article. I believe the future of job industry will go down this path eventually. Finally, I really think every kid should learn philosophy. It is extremely useful in shaping their thoughts.
Education and the process of learning begins at the cradle and continues till the grave except for a fourteen year break at school.George Bernard Shaw