Education in the Laboratory

By Maxwell Aladago. Maxwell , 23 is a student from Accra, Ghana who studies at Ashesi University College

Education, when considered broadly as any process which involves delivering or receiving new knowledge or perfecting skills, is a rather delicate topic to deal with. Defined this way, words such as ‘uneducated’ cease to exist because everyone has received some new knowledge at one point or another. E.g. We all learned to speak. For specificity, this article focuses on formal education which is education delivered in schools where the process is structured.

From statements such as the words of Malcolm X that “education is the passport to the future” or those of Nelson Mandela that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”, we can discern the indispensability of education. The determination exhibited by many parents in educating their wards also goes to affirm how we value education. Despite this unquestionable importance, the actual product of education remains unclear. Of course, students graduate from school but whether students should be trained just for specific roles in society or whether students should be molded broadly and holistically is still a bone of contention. Unfortunately, the fact that training students broadly is a prerequisite for a productive and happy working life is often lost in the frenzy of the debate.

All societies thrive on the output of people working in different fields. The world needs scientists to query nature and engineers to use the extracted knowledge to improve our living conditions. Similarly, every society needs teachers, medical doctors, lawyers etc. to function properly. Because of the important roles vocations play in every society, a case can be made that students should be trained for working life. This line of thought though credible, begs the question, how do schools determine the right careers to train students for? I believe the optimal way of preparing students is encouraging an education which enables them to explore different fields considering the fluidity of the world and the diversity of interests and talents across humanity.

I think of the world as a laboratory. Since the dawn of time, humans have always been experimenting one thing or another. Once upon a time, humans decided to experiment moving around the world using the sea. The same applies to flying in the air, domesticating animals and crops, moving to the moon etc. Artificial Intelligence, and relocating from earth are perhaps our contemporary experiments. Because students also experiment their career choices, stuffing them with only hard skills in specific majors is an extremely limiting approach of preparing them for a productive and satisfactory working life. If we live in a world where life is a product of experiments, students should be encouraged to explore and start their own experiments. This involves educating their brains and hearts as thoroughly and widely as possible.

As an example, schools can draw some lessons from the life of Thomas Jefferson, one of America’s founding fathers in educating students. He was an excellent scientist with a thorough understanding of Newtonian physics and invented a plough. But since there were few opportunities for scientists in pre-revolutionary Virginia, Jefferson indulged himself in the experiments of his time such as demanding independence and unifying the colonies. Jefferson will always be remembered for the role he played during the revolution and in writing the Declaration of Independence. Without understating the courage and brilliance of Jefferson, it’s undeniable that his vast education in science, the classics, history and especially law proved monumental in the authoring of the Declaration of Independence. Like Jefferson, there are several examples of people who produced phenomenal impact in areas outside the fields they got trained for because of their openness to knowledge.

It’s also worthy of note that the world loses out anytime one of us spends his or her working life exploiting people and spreading hatred, inequality and negative energies such as reinforcing racism. Education thus, has a mandate to prepare students in ways which will compel them to use their brains for good and not for evil. This emphasizes the point that training students for only their working life may not suffice. If students are not trained to appreciate the importance of their work not just to themselves but to the entire world, they can cause irreparable damages in societies. Education which focuses solely on training students for working life is likely to miss out on exposing them to the infinite shades of perspectives across the spectrum of life.

The story of Josef Mengele, one of Nazi’s physicians explains the preceding paragraph well. Mengele possessed a doctorate in medicine but instead of using his knowledge to improve lives, he carried out medical experimentations upon concentration camp prisoners without any regard for the emotional and physical pain on the victims (Holocaust Encyclopedia, 2017). His actions and other Nazi officials resulted in the infamous Holocaust, considered by many as the darkest point in the history of human beings. Clearly, whatever special skills in medicine Mengele might have had ultimately didn’t benefit the world. However, if his education compelled him to understand Jews as fellow humans and not as guinea pigs, he probably could have resisted joining the Nazi party which could have reduced the damage the Holocaust caused. Education can play a role in limiting retrogressive experiments like Mengele’s by helping students to widen their worldviews.

Like a typical laboratory, the world is driven by new inventions and discoveries. The new tools, methods, and data in turn spur other experiments. Things are always changing. As such, hard skills and professions relevant at a given time can easily become obsolete a decade later. For instance, with the advent of digital printers and computers, typewriting as a profession has become quite obsolete. Faced with this reality, the best gift education can bequeath to students is prepared minds to face the current challenges the world throws at them and also flexible enough to help them carve out new paths whenever necessary. The wider the student’s mind, the better. Training students to think broadly and critically increases their adaptability. But more importantly when students are trained to anticipate change, instead of feeling threatened by high-impact technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, they embrace and exploit those technologies to benefit humanity. Besides adaptability, educating students broadly allows for knowledge synthesis as a tool in problem solving.

Training students broadly is much more than licensing them to experiment career choices and choose those they can make the greatest impact. It’s also a requirement for navigating the enormous diversity inherent in most corporate environments. Diversity is a great resource because of the wide pool of ideas it offers. Self-awareness, being emotionally intelligent and developing skills for dealing with adversity are essential for tapping the benefits of diversity. Any education which trains students narrowly in specific fields without inculcating these and other soft skills in them is a failure; its products will find it difficult integrating well into any social domain.

Thus far, the case has been made that training students to think broadly is indispensable if students are to have very productive working lives. It’s also important for students to receive special training to fill certain important roles in society. Obtaining the right balance between depth of specialization and breadth of knowledge is not easy. As a start, the educational curriculum should provide avenues for students to collaborate with people from different cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds etc., in their various fields of study. Also, students at all levels should be encouraged and aided to explore fields outside their majors. Students pursuing medicine should have some knowledge, however little, in social theory for example. In any case, the focus of education especially at basic levels should always be on expanding students mind. When Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions,” he was only reminding us that new ideas are worth pursuing.

“If you’re going to live life, you’ve got to be all in,” Dr. Diamond, the neuroscientist who showed that the brain’s anatomy changes with experience, said in a 2016 documentary. Simply, our experiences refine us. The more refined students are, the greater they can contribute to the progress of their societies. Although ‘having a broad mind’ may not appear on a resume, it is the cover story of happy and productive careers. Students need skills in specific fields, but they should also be given the opportunity to broaden their horizons considering the fluidity of the world. In this laboratory we call world, the core role of education is to turn out refined humans, not robots. The best preparation for a productive working life is the continuous expansion of the mind.

ReferencesHolocaust Encyclopedia. (2017). Josef Mengele. Retrieved from https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=100070

84 comments on “Education in the Laboratory

  1. Constant Likudie on

    Great article Maxwell, I liked the different perspectives in which you viewed education. I honestly think one of the most debated subjects in academia is what you have touched on. How should people be educated? Going with the mantra, jack of all trades but a master of none, one can justify why an individual should be educated in a specific field and economists will also back this by claiming productivity increases with specialization. I believe it is great that individuals are educated in specific fields which will make them productive in their workplaces but the world viewed as a whole is more than just work. In the real world, people interrelate and everyday communication transcends to deeper levels than what is taught in schools. I am of the view that school alone cannot teach an individual all they need in life and thus each person must develop what I will call “holy curiosity”. Students must go out of their course materials and go grab knowledge wherever they can. Schools can only do as much and thus the onus lies on us the students to read wide to be useful in this ever changing world.

    Reply
    • Maxwell Aladago on

      Hahahaha, I like the term you use ‘holy curiosity’. I am asking is for schools to make curiosity a little ‘holy’. With the current system in Ghana, curiosity is not encouraged which is sad because it limits our imaginations.

      Reply
  2. Stephen Gyan on

    An insightful piece.

    You had it right that education should be structured for the student to carve their own path and career. But a reflection of history always speak to the dictates of culture. Culture defines the reality and justify the factually of reasoning so as the education that we came to meet tell us. The formal structure of education which pushes students to learn in a particular field is simply synonymous to authoritarianism and harassment of freedom.

    However interesting and more complex in defining realistic formal education will be, humans tends to naturally inclined to particular things. Otherwise, you need to ask yourself why the earlier scientist are noted in specific course of study. Therefore, it is imperative for students to be given the opportunity to identify their interest.

    I think the idealistic education is the one that gives the individual the freedom to define and ascertain their interest and passion in life. This is what Maxwell has articulated in this well-argued piece.

    Kudos!

    Reply
  3. Pages Coffie on

    Very great article Maxwell. Your analogy of the world to that of the laboratory is highly laudable. And you are right, the world nowadays is full of choices, discovery of interests, passion etc. That would mean an education system that trains people to think narrowly is a failure as you rightly highlighted. Indeed, we need a more robust and a more efficient way to educate people given the dynamic nature of the world. Inasmuch as I like the idea of educating people to think broadly, I, however, think we are loosing out on the other side of the coin: specialization. It is good that we train people to think broadly but it is more important that we also equip them with the right set of skills that make them a master of one and not just a jack of all trades. The question now then would be, “what kind of balance is required for a person to fit well in this present age?” But overall, nice piece, Maxwell.

    Reply
    • Maxwell Aladago on

      Pages, thanks for your kind words. Interesing enough, I wrote on you, ‘pages’ . To respond to your question, I would say there’s not hard limit for a good balance. The point I tried to emphasize is that preparing students for a working life is a subset of preparing them for life. To prepare students for life, you need to expand their horizons as widely as possible. If students are prepared for life, they do not have to worry about finding jobs. In any case, educationists ought to always seek to help students grow even if teaching them for working life is a primary goal.

      Reply
      • Pages Coffie on

        Maxwell, you are funny. You didn’t need to remind me of how useful I am to authors like you.

        Thanks so much for the clarification. I hope many more people get to read this enlightening piece of yours.

        As an aside, I was a little surprised you didn’t mention the European renaissance or even the elightenment.

        Reply
  4. Ezikiel Sebastein on

    Well said, Maxwell. The case is even worse when institutions cause students to think that grade is everything, and for this reason, the students focus squarely on the grades and learn nothing even in the very fields that they have been confined. On a different note, however, you should realise that educational systems are changing (slowly though). For example, the liberal arts education which tries to deal with this issue, is on the increase. You should also realise that you are talking about a structured teaching and learning process (you said it yourself), and this kind of training that you talked about is one of the ‘structures’ that define it. If students want to ‘explore’, then the unstructured education could be an option. In addition, you said that students are not robots, but throughout the text, you wrote as though they are. Students have a role to play. Even if the structured education wants to teach them outside their majors or future professions, it cannot teach everything. The rest will be up to them to explore, if they don’t, education is not to blame. Finally, I know this about some systems, like Nigeria and Ghana. Students are exposed broadly at the early stage of their education and are gradually guided as they climb the educational ladder until they find an area of interest. I believe that this early exposure is enough to give them a broad perspective before they eventually settle on a particular area of interest. I can go on to mention systems that are trying to tackle the issues such as special vocational centres, clubs and societies that exist in schools etc. Unfortunately students don’t take advantage of these. In a nutshell, students themselves contribute to partly to this problem so I feel that you were too harsh to the structured educational system.

    Reply
    • Maxwell Aladago on

      Honestly, I was a little harsh with the narrow education because it does not serve much god compared to broad education.That’s the whole essence of this entry, to initiate conversations about the manner in which we are enducated, a case for a broad education.

      Reply
    • Moses Yangnemenga on

      Ezekiel, would say Ghana and Nigeria should continue to give much exposure at the early stages but narrow it as they climb the ladder? I think that won’t help much because it’s more of putting students back into a box. For me it should be the reverse. Or the the exposure should be incremental as they climb the ladder.

      Reply
  5. Daniel Yagasom on

    A thorough submission you have put up there!!

    It is true that our system of education need to do more to allow “students to be future leaders” to be like the “chameleon” and not stereotype in thought as they encounter the challenges this world has to offer them, this would go a long way to help the future of this country. But reading through your write up, some of the suggestions you put forward, I could see those suggestions already in place in our system. Why do I say that? Before a child can become a grown-Up in our contemporary Ghana, he or she would have passed through the nursery, the kindergarten, the primary all through to the University education.
    If you should take a closer look, you would notice a pattern here. Starting from the primary, the child is introduced to so much of reading and learning in the form of the various subjects that are made available to the child. The aim of all that is to increase the knowledge of the child and expose them to what is out there in the world. By this time, a child that is curious in nature is already beginning to ask questions, he or she is wondering why things are done this way and not the other way round. The use of the word “curious” was intentional, because whether you like or not, not all the children that pass through that phase would be inquisitive.
    I’m sure during the time of Isaac Newton, there were several other kids too, like wise Louis Pasteur who’s one perfect example of someone who wasn’t tied down to one field of knowledge. Don’t get lost, what I’m trying to say is, that curious child would have asked questions, probably had some answers that did little to quench that hunger for knowledge.
    As that child climbs higher the educational ladder he or she is yet introduced to more reading and learning. But there’s something I want you to notice, the pattern I talked of earlier, as the child climbs higher he or she becomes narrowed to a particular area. That’s by senior high, the child is either reading science, business, arts etc., you can say this is caused by our educational system, but you should also know that, the decision of whether to study science or business wasn’t imposed on the child,he or she had to willingly choose. And that choise was as a result of the questions the once small child now a teenager asked while he or she was little, those things that piqued the interest of the child. Now that the child has a choice of “his” own, he or she can now decide on what he wants to specialize in, but mind you prior to this the child has come across several volumes of information that is now part of the knowledge bank of the child. From here the child is further narrowed to a particular field based on his choice and no one else,that is in the University.
    But I would not be ignorant of the fact that most children as they grow make uninformed choices, due to peer influence and among other factors.
    Pardon me for my long writing, but in summary, I want to say that we being narrowed to one field of knowledge is partly our choice and the educational system that we have, but in being narrowed we are not also completely empty of knowledge in other areas.
    You should know Louis Pasteur before he started to make those discoveries also went through the country’s educational system, had degrees too. When he had gained academic freedom, the things he made and brought into being was amazing, and surely all the past knowledge he accrued the past years surely came in handy. I think Isaac Newton too, did not start making discoveries out of nothing, he surely went through slightly similar situations.
    Also by the time one would successfully go through the educational system he or she might have come across different people from different walks of life too. So that issue about “socialization” I think our system have tried in that area.

    But that notwithstanding your argument is very strong, though our system is trying from my point of view she still needs to do more. The practical component is still missing in our institutions, she does not make it clear to us that the purpose of formal education is to make and develop an all round person who is capable of facing the world and all that it has to offer.

    We the students on our part also have a role to play. After school we should know that we have the freedom to explore other areas, we should break off that invisible chain that is trying to hold us back, that is still making us think we are still in “school” and so must stick to one field. We can take cues from Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur and the many great men that once walked the surface of this earth.

    Reply
  6. Ayebilla Avoka on

    This is awesome. I like the fact that the world is a laboratory. But what is your stand? Do you mean students should not be taught specific subjects in school or education should take a different format?

    If indeed the world is a laboratory, there is no limit to the extend of learning you can do. Though you may have subscribe to your current institution’s culture, who you will be and what you will do to make a difference lies in what you will learn from outside the school. If the world is a laboratory, then everyone is a student experimenting on their fields of interest and there is no need asking for special time for so called students to do their own things

    Reply
    • Maxwell Aladago on

      Good point Ayebilla. My argument isn’t that student’s shouldn’t be taught specific subjects. What I am saying is a student’s educational experience should not be limited to only a few subjects in his/her chosen field.

      There really isn’t any limit to learning. That’s why it’s unhelpful for schools to develop students for only some specific jobs. What schools should do is to guide students to develop exploratory and open mindsets by, amongst other things, exposing them to diverse experiences and ideas. When students leave school very excited and empowered to explore new fields and try new experiments, they’ll learn the things which are in tune with their ambitions. But more importantly, they will be adaptable to the ever changing world.

      Reply
      • Ayebilla Avoka on

        Awesome. Good insight then! Our educational drivers got to see this beautiful piece.
        Posted by sharhan at 11.03am on Tuesday, 12 September 2017.

        This is an awesome insight only few dare to meditate about. Do you rather think the current system has produced less as compared to if we had taken the road to open mindedness and preached self experimentations to students?

        Reply
        • Maxwell Aladago on

          Good question Ayebilla & Sharhan! It’s hard to answer your question directly because even within countries, different schools are on different points on the spectrum when it comes to training students to think broadly. That said, I believe that any educational system which encourages exploration, flexibility, and openness to knowledge will always produce superior results to that which teaches students to think narrowly.

          Reply
  7. Agumah Joel Awinzure on

    Thank you Maxwell for your write up.In fact you are raising important points in our educational sector but my question is “should education be a place of experimentation”. Even though this is happening but I beg to differ. One will agree with me that it can take years before one can acquire knowledge in one field how much more several fields.Teachers should therefore have the ability to see talents in students as early as primary and assist them in that regards .This will save time and help students acquire muchknowledge in areas they have so much knowkedge.

    Reply
  8. Baleng Mahama on

    An insightful and thought provoking essay Maxwell.

    You have explored several themes which this generation must discuss if we strive to improve education.
    Indeed your analogy of the world as a laboratory is apt. I fully subscribe to giving students a good foundation, but how far should we go with that, because teaching them specific skills is also important to help them fit into professional life

    Reply
    • Maxwell Aladago on

      Great observation Baleng. Explorable fields and skills are infinite: schools can’t teach all and students can’t learn everything even if they have an unlimited time. Also, like I argued in the essay, we need doctors, teachers, pilots in every society: vocations are critical to a society’s survival. A person needs some specific skills to teach and everyone can’t all be teachers. Thus, it’s important to teach students specific skill.

      That notwithstanding, the argument I advanced is that since schools can’t teach students everything (there isn’t any limit to knowledge anyway), they should teach them how to learn new skills and adapt to new fields. This involves broadening students horizons. Within fields, students can be taught broadly.

      A teacher who only knows how to hold the chalk, read and write but cannot empathize with students isn’t qualified as a good teacher. Thus, the wider a person’s worldview is, the greater the impact the skills he/she possesses will have on humanity. Therefore, if schools don’t assist students to broaden their horizons, the specific skills they teach them will yield little benefits.

      Reply
      • Baleng Mahama on

        Thanks for the submission Maxwell, but I think the arguments are strong, but the question that keeps coming back to me is at what level should we say,

        broadminded education is okay, let us teach you something more specific?

        Reply
  9. Maxwell Aladago on

    Thanks Baleng! There really isn’t any hard limit to say a student’s mind has been broadened enough because every person always has the capacity to improve. There’s no limit to knowledge. My argument is that schools shouldn’t teach students just one or two specific things for certain jobs. In any case, broad education really is teaching a series of specific skills and experiences but not in detail. Mature students (graduate schools) having been introduced to a wide range of experiences can then pick out a field of interest and focus on that in detail.

    Reply
  10. Avoka Vasco on

    Thought provoking Maxwell. I am of the view that due to fluidity of the world and knowledge, students should be trained specifically for their specialty. Training students for specialty does not mean limiting them in their thinking and innovations. It simply means that students would have in-depth understanding of their subject area and that would allow and interest them to crave for more. The infrastructure for continuous learning and upgrading of knowledge should be available and the students shall function well in other areas as well.

    Reply
    • Maxwell Aladago on

      Great perspective Vasco. Our thoughts aren’t very different. If a student’s training doesn’t limit his/her ability to be innovative, adaptable and explorative, I will recommend it on any day. But remember that students need more than hard skills to function well in their work places. If a doctor knows the details of the medical field but can’t relate to patients as humans, it’s a complete failure. Incorporating all these in addition to the specific hard skills makes an education a broad one

      Reply
  11. Sihle on

    Great easy Maxwell, it comes at a time when I feel Africa should redefine her education systems. Though later on your stance became clear I feel your opening was vague to some extent. One thing I wish you could have expounded on is the role of ideology in education as in the case of the Nazi which you mentioned because there is no doubt ideology played a critical. Is there a way we can have ideology free education? What about industrialization, because in my view the education system was created to serve industrialization of not the broad system of capitalism. Hey, I know you wouldn’t have covered everything but I.would like to hear your views from the above. And again, great essay.

    Reply
    • Maxwell Aladago on

      Sihle, you’ve raised important points, points I do not have the capacity to address completely. I also share your misgivings about some of the current educational systems in Africa.

      I believe educational systems should find a good balance between ideology and pragmatism. The late Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping exemplified this during China’s restructing. Like you, I beleive that ideology can be very costly and we need to run away from it whenever there is the chance. Nonetheless, action often depend on ideas, good and productive ideas of course.

      I do get your point about the role of education in industrialization. It appears to me you’re reaching out to the origins of the formal education which was created to train people for factories. But we have realized that such a cruch capitalist system did not the world any good. That does not mean education has no role to play in the development of societies or helping them industrialize productively and for the greater good. When everyone can access good education, an education which inspires positive change, the entire world benefits.

      Once again, thank you very much for bringing on such novel perspectives to this debate. I never thought of it from that angle.

      Reply
  12. Ibrahim Abdullah on

    Great work Maxwell. Undoubtedly, the benefits of adopting approach of educating students holistically is very well articulated in your essay. I however think the main argument regarding such an important topic should be finding the balance between the two sides of the argument rather than choosing one over the other.

    Additionally, I doubt if the education that Jozef Mengele had the privilege to enjoy focused on training students for specific roles.

    Reply
    • Maxwell Aladago on

      Thanks for the comment Ibrahim.

      It may be true Mengele’s education didn’t focus solely on specific roles but the point being made is that his education certainly didn’t expose him to think of Jews as humans.

      Also, the issue of striking a balance has been addressed in some of the comments above. Thinking about it, I believe the right way to prepare a student, even if for a job, is to help broaden his or her knowledge base.

      Reply
  13. Nizomdeen Samiulahi on

    Thought provoking piece Maxwell 👍

    I agree to your assertion of a broadened educational scope, however, there should be a caveat to the extent of widened scope with a bit of specialty.
    In my opinion, students should widen their horizon by learning to acquire knowledge outside their specialty areas of study.

    Reply
  14. Phyllis Sitati on

    Wow! Great piece you have here. This is a very critical approach to education. I totally agree with you that a lot of careers are becoming obsolete with each new invention and this is a serious challenge. However, wouldn’t education be even more tedious than it already is because surely considering all aspects, there is only so much a person can do. Don’t you think that this create lack of motivation among students?

    Reply
    • Maxwell Aladago on

      Thanks for the question Phyllis. In my opinion, it’s better to expend more effort for an education which delivers maximum output than to spend little effort on an education which reduces the effectiveness of students to contribute to the growth of their societies. In any case, education has always been tedious. If it’s good, it’s worth fighting for no matter the amount of effort required.

      Whether students will be motivated in such an explorative system depends largely on execution. I actually believe students will find the educational system described in the essay very enjoyable and much more rewarding.

      Reply
  15. Sadat Issah on

    Well said, over the past decades the world has seen a significant growth but our educational systems unfortunately are not responding accordingly.

    The traditional ways of educating our youths needs significant adjustments to meet the changing needs of our current world

    Reply
  16. Ayariga Joseph on

    This piece is educative, I have just been lectured for the past six minutes. I can see that you are for education especially structured education as you put it. That is awesome, we all should without that I might possible be starring at a white screen with black dots and scribbling undecipherable to me. Much more. You want an integrated syllable, which is fine by me, except that knowledge have expanded far beyond any single mind, trying hard to grab here and there can be likened to unfocused beam, it never cuts. At the end, we will be walking with heads full of knowledge that are not practical. Some fields are sourly ok with such, because it would not hate much, but others as you can guess may not have the luxury. As social beings some aspects of learning is through osmosis, for instance emotional intelligence as well as work place interactions might not necessary be factored into a curriculum, but we all do learn it anyway. I am love the diversity of examples used to flavor your essay. AI is however, something entirely of itself, which I think stands aloof and everyone have their own misgivings about it. I am such guys who vehemently stands against it, especially staring at the end and not the journey. I suppose we can’t agree all on same thing because everyone have his or her philosophical inclination.

    Reply
  17. Gervase Adams on

    This is mind blowing, well structured and properly argued out. It buffles my mind what kind of education people are having especially in Africa. There are so many graduates who don’t even know how to find jobs, they can’t put together a CV and a whole lot of stuff. It Is crazy how everyone thinks of finding a job after school instead of creating jobs. Education indeed should be holistic, broadening the mind and exposing the individual to different perspectives of life. That’s all we need to develop and handle the many challenges of today’s world. Education should help us to find opportunity in the challenges of today so that by finding solutions to those challenges, we excel in life.

    Reply
  18. Joseph Akyin on

    I love this piece. Africa has one of the fastest growing population in the world with and by 2030, Africa will have a larger workforce than China, and by 2050, it will have the largest workforce in the world. One billion people will need jobs in Africa. How we deal with this is to train and education them holistically instead of just narrowing education down to specialty. Your write-up is insightful and have key pointers for educational stakeholders. We need to prepare for the future by utilizing the greatest assets that we have on the continent, that is, Africa’s youth population and what better way to do this than to train them holistically. Great job Maxwell

    Reply
  19. Haddijatou Touray on

    Well done Maxwell! It is indeed a thorough and well structured write-up. Education should be made to fill the heart and mind of individuals and not just for grades or promotion purpose. As you rightly quoted from Malcolm X, “Education is the passport to the future, as tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today”. Therefore, the preparation really counts.
    There are few liberal arts universities in Africa and I believe the way the educational system is structured in these universities even, need much improvement. Africans are being encouraged to be open minded but the way we are being trained really differ from that perspective. We are trained to be entirely working for grades throughout our lives in school.
    I believe the grading system and the requirements for promotion being attached to what we are learning in schools, really put a limit to our thinking.
    Education should indeed be done holistically.

    Reply
  20. sharhan on

    This is an awesome insight only few dare to meditate about. I really enjoyed reading your article, it had many interesting perspectives, and the comments have been insightful so far.

    Reply
  21. Dong-bene on

    Absolutely thought provoking. I will have to give it a second read in order to get in tune with the arguments advanced… Nice piece … my take on it will come after my second read . Kudos

    Reply
  22. Atule Samuel on

    Remarkable! speech

    What comes to mind are the names of great inventors, theorist, rationalist, discoverers and explorers of medieval times. Think of Socrates, Plato, and all the great academia that have laid the foundation for contemporary inventions. They all had one thing in common –liberal arts education. These people were human and somehow the discovered and theorized concepts across all fields of knowledge. Come to think of it? there is genius in acquiring knowledge across fields. And i support that you are advocating for it.

    For how you presented your rhetoric, it may be deemed as biased and may not be fully convincing. Maybe in the future, include advantages of the other side and debunk them to captivate your audience.

    This is an expansive topic, that i think more insight is needed to fully digest it. But over all, very important concepts where articulated making it a great essay

    Great Job!

    Posted by Atule Samuel at 5.00pm on Wednesday, 13 September 2017.

    Remarkable! speech

    What comes to mind are the names of great inventors, theorist, rationalist, discoverers and explorers of medieval times. Think of Socrates, Plato, and all the great academia that have laid the foundation for contemporary inventions. They all had one thing in common –liberal arts education. These people were human and somehow the discovered and theorized concepts across all fields of knowledge. Come to think of it? there is genius in acquiring knowledge across fields. And i support that you are advocating for it.

    For how you presented your rhetoric, it may be deemed as biased and may not be fully convincing. Maybe in the future, include advantages of the other side and debunk them to captivate your audience.

    This is an expansive topic, that i think more insight is needed to fully digest it. But over all, very important concepts where articulated making it a great essay

    Great Job!

    Reply
    • Maxwell Aladago on

      Good observation Samuel. Most of the time we think of people like Einstein, Rousseau, and Tesla as if they were gods. Of course, most of them were more brilliant than the average person. One point to note however, is that besides intelligence, they all read widely and voraciously. Knowledge integration is so powerful that the consequences of educating students for specific jobs are too distasteful.

      You’re are right that the manner in which I presented my thoughts may be deemed biased. I did highlight the importance of vocations in every society at in the third paragraph but I didn’t really expound a lot on it. But that’s not really an issue I wanted to dwell on for a long time. We all know the through work alone can food be brought to the table. The point I tried to stress is that when education is executed as it should be, we really do not need to worry about people finding jobs because jobs will create themselves. If my ideas were not expressed clearly, I hope the comments can help us address the topic fully.

      Thank you for such deep insights.

      Reply
    • Atule Samuel on

      Sorry Maxwell, I mistakenly posted my duplicate comments again. In the first round, I experience internet problems which led to a duplication of my comment. I saved them and instead of copying one, I mistakenly copied both of them. I just realized my mistake.

      Reply
      • Maxwell Aladago on

        Hey Samuel, Don’t worry, I am sure the editors wil realize that it was a mistake. I think they are quite sure people who saved their comments on articles on the old website will only copy and paste them on the new site.

        I saw that and was wondering what how it appeared so.

        Thanks again

        Reply
  23. Abel DAARTEY on

    In fact, I enjoyed reading every bit of this recommendable write up. Your argument is very practical.
    Worth noting from your write up is the sentence ;

    “Education which focuses solely on training students for working life is likely to miss out on exposing them to the infinite shades of perspectives across the spectrum of life.”
    This statement is pregnant with a heavy meaning pointing out the capability and the prowess of man.
    The world has evolved to a point where the need for team work and collaboration is indispensable. Therefore, notwithstanding, the need to focus on maximizing one’s area of expertise, lessons of basic human social ethics and standards need to be imbibed into the schools curriculum. I believe that, there is no limit to what the mind can assimilate. Besides, knowledge is power.
    Thumbs up to you, I believe you have made your point.
    However, I have a question for you.

    Aren’t we the same people who condemn our own curriculum that some of the courses we do in school are ‘bogus’? Hahahaa!

    I remember, I ones condemned certain courses I did as a student in JHS and SHS which mean nothing to me in my career development now. I considered them as waste of time and brain ‘space’. But as life unfolds to me, I am seeing the relevance of all those “nonsense” courses; brain expansion, maturity in approaching things and the essence of paying attention to little things in life.
    Once again, I think your argument is clear and deserves the best attention.

    Kudos!

    Reply
    • Maxwell Aladago on

      Hahahaha! Nothing learned really goes waste. We all thought of it that way when were kids. Why are we doing this, why are doing that, how will this help me. Interesting enough, I draw lessons from experiences in tackling ‘uperficially unrelated problems quite frequently. Like the French sculptor, Auguste René Rodin said, ‘Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely’. Schools can help not only introduce us to varied experience. I agree it’s the responsibility of students to use those experiences wisely but acquiring them is the first step.

      Reply
  24. Gandaabie Balbulee on

    This article is very important and educative, After reading the article I felt elated, may God grant you more graces to continue to share such thrilling thoughts with the reading public.

    Reply
  25. Solomon Mba Aladago on

    Bro, you nailed it. I now fully comprehend why you wave off my funny jokes sometimes; you always pondering new ideas. Do you party at all in school?

    Well, the jokes aside, this write-up is an excellent piece, examining our educational system at a fundamental level, something few people dare to question.

    One way schools can help broaden students minds (like you said throughout your essay) is to reduce the depth of the ‘formal’ curriculum and then put avenues in place to enable students to use that ‘free time’ broadening their horizons. Schools, of course, must excite students first.

    Reply
    • Maxwell Aladago on

      Hahahaha, Ras Zamzy! I do party in school. Maybe not as much as you do. On the flip side, I party at football matches, something which you detests.

      Moving on, thanks for adding such novel dimensions to the debate. The ‘informal’ things people do in schools should not be underestimated. Educational institutions have a responsibility to excite students.

      Reply
  26. Polibu Amos on

    Well done Maxwell. Very educative master piece up there. I totally agree to your perspective of how education should. The human mind is limitless in its capacity, so students should be encouraged learn anything they encounter outside the scope of their curriculum. Formal education especially in the early days of life(basic school through to high school) should focus more on broadening the child’s mind for them to have a feel of all the fields in the world. I say so because that is the time most students are enthusiastic and curious to explore.

    Good examples about Jefferson and Mengele up there.

    The world indeed is laboratory and our experiments shouldnt be restricted to one aspect of life.
    Thomas Huxley quote “try to learn something about everything and everything about something” simplifies how education should look like.

    Great piece bro

    Reply
    • Maxwell Aladago on

      Thanks Amos, again you’re eloquent as always and showering all the praises on me. I think you deserve a lot more praises too. Anyways, that’s besides the points.

      Actually, I have never seen that quote by Huxley. The reality is that there are many aspects to life more than just some confined academic space. Educational institutions are not apprenticeship spaces but even if they were students still deserved to have the chance to explore other facets of life. For God’s sake, students are humans.

      Reply
  27. Khadijahtu Mohammed on

    I was startled after reading the statement, ” words such as ‘uneducated’ cease to exist”, but you later pinpointed supportive instance to it. I must say this is a splendid work done! It is my earnest hope that the educational system in Africa will be modified to suit our future betterment in all aspects. Thanks for airing this vital topic to the public.

    Reply
  28. Abisiga Ayeebo Bismark on

    Your article rested its fame on the clarity of expression and orderly presentation of materials. In one school of thought, education should focus on training students on how to conduct research in other field of studies rather than limiting them to specifics.

    However, it is worthy of note, ‘education’ as used in the article refers to learning that takes place in formal established structures.

    Stemming from the preceding sentence, education has been far long planed to meet the talents one might have had inbuild. For example, in finace, medicine, teaching and the list goes on. If a case of this kind is true, then there is the need for education to teach students on how to specialize in their respective talents, and how to identify the inborn qualities in them rather than teaching them how to grasp knowledge from all angles. It is true that one cannot be perfect at all areas, then what makes it a bottleneck perfecting someone who chose to major in a particular field of study?

    Reply
    • Maxwell Aladago on

      Those are really powerful comments Abisiga! I agree with you that we cannot be perfect in all areas. Actually, no body can be perfect in even one field but everyone can always seek perfection, thus preserving the possibility to reach excellence.

      You talked about the purpose of education being to identify inborn talents in students and train students to maximize those talents. That salient duty in itself calls for a broad education for two main reasons:

      1. There are infinitely many talents across humanity, most of which by the way, are still undiscovered. Think about it, how do educationists identify and nurture each of these talents specifically? Even if educationists knew what each student could do, do they create a specialized narrow environment for each student with his/her unique set of talents? For me, the most pragmatic answer to these questions is to train students broadly so each of them will find a very relatable field to pursue, or at least develop the capability to identify and improve his/her own talents.

      2. The second reason why educationists cannot afford to train students narrowly is that most students, especially in Ghana, do not know what they want to do, or are capable of doing until many years after graduation. How on earth do you condemn such students to a narrowly focused field because they chose, based on limited knowledge, to experiment that field? This question gets more difficult when you move steps back to fundamental educational stages when students are still very young.

      Beyond the above comments, training students broadly is fundamentally an issue of leveraging the maximum quality from the human capital available to any society. Problems rarely are about only one sector of society, the span across many fields of human endeavor. Because of this, solutions to them must take into considerations the subsystems involved in the problem to be effective. Having a broad education gives a student an upper edge in innovating and crafting solutions which are holistic.

      The other aspect about your comment that I want to address is the issue of specialization. Specialization is not the same as narrow education (or education for the job). It really means that a person knows one field more than the rest, which is okay.

      Reply
  29. APAM FRANCIS AKUDAGO on

    What a nice and a wonderful article analytically published by my dear bro Maxwell Aladago?? I have strongly seconded to this piece of analogy.
    But one thing I want to know is that, “education” as minds broadener in the world as a laboratory of experiments, helps one to learn, understand, identify, explore and to draw conclusion from the outcome for the benefit of oneself and the world as whole. Come to think of this, won’t it be time delaying in the discovery of one’s talents knowing very much well that, the spheres of human lives are of a complex nature; which to each individual has a definite integral in the reference frame of world.
    I would have rather suggested that, after the basic exposure of students to some aspects of studies, a mindset centered towards specialization should be developed as part of the training process in order that, students become experts in the field of studies to improve productivity.

    May God give you more Grace to publish more!!!!

    Reply
  30. Abisiga Ayeebo Bismark on

    Thought provoking article, my brother. I very much agree with the motion `self awareness, being emotionally intelligent and developing skills dealing with adversity are essential for tapping the benefits of diversity.’ This statement, however, begs the question, at what level students be taught to explore on their own and realize the realities of diversity, though embedded in themselves?

    Reply
    • Maxwell Aladago on

      In my view, educational institutions should do intentiaonaly seek to broaden students minds at all levels. One way they can facilitate student exploration is by deliberately creating campus cultures which not only embrace soft skills but also pushes students to find for themselves why those soft skills and values are important.

      Thanks for bringing out such profound dimensions to the discussion.

      Reply
  31. Alatega Emmanuel on

    Max I stand by you,i know you will always make us proud and may the almighty continue to bless you with much wisdom to achieve what ever you want to do.stay bless

    Reply
    • Maxwell Aladago on

      Thanks Uncle. I am who I am because of you. I remember you and Rogger calling me MbaZoko (meaning mad mba) which allowed me to get close to you and learn. It helped a lot. Now, I am called mad max in school for completely different reasons

      Reply
    • Maxwell Aladago on

      Legend Paaaa! Thanks for your kind words Reveren. I admired you as a young child. You have no idea how many people you have inspired in the community.

      Reply
  32. Edith Violet Naisubi on

    Awesome article Maxwell.
    It got me engaged right from the start to end because of the well-illustrated explanations and examples you laid out in your article. Great work.

    Reply
  33. Alexander Tingbani on

    Point well made Maxwell. I was really encouraged to have read your interesting and thought provoking article. It jilted me to my thinking seat and also kept me wondering what is actually happening i the educational system of our country. May all citizens of this nation of ours share the same ideas as you have brought to light i this piece. More grease to your elbows Bro.

    Reply
  34. Musah Adams on

    This is an excellent piece Maxwell! You’re touched one of the untounchables, trying to decipher the true role of education in society. I was impressed by your novelty in contrasting the education of Jerfferson and Mingele, that was very innovative.

    I will add that the formal curriculum alone is not enough for the education you’ve prescribed. We need schools to consider introducing some ‘informality’ into their core curriculums. By that I mean reducing the workload on students thereby allowing them to improve themselves socially as well.

    Kudos.

    Reply
  35. Issahaku Yakubu on

    In a world where unemployment is on the rise and the needs of society keeps changing, it is important for students to be trained broadly so as to enable them confront any challenges that may arise. Training students for specific roles is in essence limiting their ability to offer effective solutions for the growth of society, and they may be helpless in a situation where they are confronted with a problem that is outside of what has been taught them. I agree entirely with you and strongly believe the world would be better of if much emphasis is placed on training students to broaden their knowledge than restricting them to specific roles.

    Reply
  36. Paul on

    Nice write up
    It corroborated what I have harboured for years. Education requires much more than just narrowing students to a training in a particular field. Such form of education also narrows how they think and ultimately what they give to the society.They should be given a broad spectrum to choose from ,for that will make them appreciate whatever happens in other spheres not perculuar to their specialty.
    And Alaldaago Maxwell has said all .
    I just hope this article is promoted so as to let everyone in on how wewe can structurizestructure our education for the benefits of all.

    Reply
  37. Muhammad Jammeh on

    This is an awesome piece maxwell. Thinking of Africa, I believe we need an education system which is in resonance with our status as a developing continent. Majority of institutions in Africa put more emphasis in grades than skills. And, until we turn away from this and have a refined educational system, we wouldn’t see development anytime soon. great piece once more.

    Reply
  38. Kingsley Agyekum on

    This is beautifully written, Maxwell. However, please give me a context here. Was your focus on education in Africa or education globally?

    Reply
    • Maxwell Aladago on

      That’s a great question, Kingsley! To be honest, I tried to write about the universal purpose/role of education in every society but my focus was largely on Africa because that’s where my entire experience is based on. But it’s much more than experience, it’s what the African continent needs right now. Most of the jobs in Africa have not yet been created. Thus, it’s ridiculous to promote educational practices which seek to train students for jobs. I think education in Africa will be of a much greater value if it prepares students to create the jobs which have not yet been discovered.

      I am not oblivious to the fact that some countries are already doing much what I argued for in this article. I also know that children in some countries have the chance to make informed choices early in life thus mitigating the consequences of narrow education. The sole purpose of my article is to expose the dangers of narrow education.

      Reply
  39. Edrine Ssemwanga on

    Wow!!
    Every time I get to see someone write about education, I am so invigorated to see what school of thought they have about it. They used to say that “Education is the key to success”, but I really doubt if that is still so.
    Nice piece over there Maxwell, about the education system.

    Reply
    • Maxwell Aladago on

      Edrine, I understand why you would doubt the classical phrase, ‘education is the key to success’. The truth is many young people have not seen this success after being through school. I do not think the problem is with education, it is a question of whether what is delivered in schools these days is education? I believe the kind of education a person receives plays a major role in realizing the promised in the above axiom.

      I would advise that neither educators nor students shouldn’t start off with everything centered on attaining ‘success’. I am not saying educational institutions should breed failures but once everything is centered on some pre-defined success in mind, the value of learning is lost. All we need to be successful is to have some positive value to society.

      Reply
  40. Moses Yangnemenga on

    Hey Max,
    This a great writeup. Good job..
    It’s really sad how our educational institutions have kept us in a bubble such that students cant even articulate their interest properly. Even in the so called liberal arts schools, the ability of students to explore their interest is increasingly becoming limited. As you mentioned, students are not experimenting a lot. And even if they do, it’s structured along what has worked already and not work could be done differently. This happens in the actual laboratories and class rooms.

    I know you may not have much knowledge about liberal art school but Do you think liberal arts schools are run on the soles of liberal?

    Reply
    • Maxwell Aladago on

      Wonderful contributions Moses, I could feel your frustration with your educational experience from afar. To attempt answering your question, I will want to point out that a school is only a true liberal arts school if and only if it lives up the core tenets of the liberal arts education. Simply, labeling a school a liberal arts is not a guarantee that the school will conduct its work in the liberal arts spirit. That said, my proposal is for everyone to see the downsides of narrow education, not only in the arts but also in the sciences and everywhere else. One thing I couldn’t stress well in the paper is that broad education is not only about throwing many different subjects at students, it has to include helping students construct tangible experiences from those subjects as well as having the freedom to try things.

      Reply
  41. Patrick on

    Well done Maxwell, this is a great piece worth reading. I personally don’t agree with the way education is conceived by most people or decision makers. Yes, we need engineers, doctors and all the professionals you can think about, but also we need to let students broaden their mind. As you mentioned in your writing, people find themselves working in areas different from what they have taught in school. Recently I came across a status on my facebook page from one of a famous Chinese and here is what it says “I allowed my children to have a relative GPA because I know they use some of their time to learn other things outside the class content.” For me it makes a lot of sense, students should be allowed to make their own exploration based on their interests because the world we live in, is undetermined. There is no guarantee that what they taught you in school is what will make you successful in life, therefore I feel there is a need for those in positions to evaluate how they treat what they call formal education and if possible restructure their models. Otherwise great job.

    Reply
  42. Emmanuela Fosua Mensah on

    Great insights! To view the world as a laboratory means our educational systems must instill in us a desire for lifelong or continuous learning-inquisitive mindset.

    Sadly, our education today is viewed as a means to an end and the end for many is interpreted as getting a good job or being self-sufficient-if that’s even sustainable?! So once students bag the various levels of degrees, most of them cease to continue learning.

    But wait! Could it be that these views on education is as a result of the educational structure?! Formal education ends at the doorstep of the classroom or after getting the degree. For so long education had been confined to specific settings- the classroom and thankfully the internet revolution is shifting these mindsets, whereby education can happen anywhere, anytime by anyone!

    Likewise, there is a need for a mindset shift that education does not end after acquiring the knowledge but rather is a continuous phase whereby the acquired knowledge must be applied to develop new knowledge and so it continues infinitely.

    Kudos on this post Maxwell!

    Reply
  43. Lynn Mumia on

    An interesting and insightful article. I totally agree with the fact that a practical and limitless education will allow students to explore and come up with explosive innovations based on their talents and intellectual abilities. However, what will be the measure of merit or success in such a system? And, what structures will be put in place to govern the knowledge being imparted to students? For i know that any education system has to have a particular kind of structure governing it.

    Reply

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