The Realm of Normality – Learn to Live or Live to Learn?

By Nur Shafiqah Binti Mohd Safuan. Nur Shafiqah, 20, lives in Subang Jaya, Malaysia. She is a student and aspiring writer. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

I quiver as I sat on the armchair, staring at my father as he faced out the window. His hands are placed behind him; his demeanor scares me down to my bone. He turns around and stares straight at me, puncturing his gaze in me. He opens his mouth gently, ‘get an A!’.

‘Get an A’ – A statement so overly abused in the world of education. It has materialized as an idea that instead of paving the way for one’s future, it is a matter of living up to expectations. Education is, of course, the vital institution for a systematic life. It is a realm of stepping stones where students try to gain as much knowledge possible. Personally, there has never been a day which I find daunting when it comes to learning; it is the idea of being taught, however, that has been horribly accepted by me.

An example which I find interesting is the level of normality in education when compared from different perspectives. In Malaysia, I have come to a realization that subjects are taught differently when compared on a global scale. Chapters are collectively placed in an ascending order of understanding- the idea as such is one should first grasp the basics in order to ascend to more significant, prodigious chapters. Predictably, as a student, I would learn, as an obligation, whatever it was that was taught. Still, as I grew and grasped the idea of self- learning, it became clear to me that what I was supposedly taught early on in primary school were taught much earlier to students in other countries. That having been said, the context of education in my country seems to be crafted in a way where its aim is to project students towards the workforce. The idea of molding students and directing them towards one specific path can potentially create those who can greatly excel in their profession. However, what seems to be the problem in building students for the sole purpose of working is that it does not necessarily allow students to branch into wanting to know more. As such, the question ‘Living or Learning?’ leads to the idea about whether one should learn to live, or live to learn.

In decoding which education context is more acceptable, pros and cons start to emerge. What can be examined is that the role of education as being to prepare students for working life seems to be associated with developing countries. In wanting to achieve a stable growth, different sectors need significant working forces to help propel the country to greater heights. This aim itself is what drives education into pushing students out for working life. Education life for students in Malaysia is reflected in an almost academically – driven mindset. Truthfully, the idea of being excellent students should be a main priority as working requires skills, and skills are needed to build a country. To add to that, the emphasis on achieving only the best results in school is greatly exercised in developing countries. That being said, many students get alienated from their teachers for not being able to achieve an ‘A’, despite them excelling in other criteria that are not exactly academically related. When their support system in school gives up on them, students feel depressed and label themselves as failures. For this reason, many developing countries face the issue of suicide among young students. On top of all, when incidents as such occur, the reason tends to be swept under carpet by authoritative individuals.

In comparison to developed countries, education strives to broaden students’ minds. From early on, students are taught countless of different subjects that are not of the norm in other countries. Subjects such as Coding and Life Skills allow students to examine and understand a different approach to living and learning. Arguably, it is intense to take on prodigious subjects at an early age, but having to evolve and exercise the mind with a wide variety of information helps to create an environment for learning to come naturally instead of it being obligatory. To add to that, developed countries like Germany exercises a free education system which thus allows students to divulge themselves into countless of information, without the fear of having to bear tuition fees’ burden. With education helping to broaden students’ mind, it creates a career path for them that is not of the norm, as compared to more general professions. Education in developed countries aims to progress students to continuously garner information related greatly to problem solving. Having achieved a status of being economically developed and technologically advanced, developed countries are able to nurture their students to broaden their minds and this thus propels them to be more knowledgeable and capable

To add to that, how we live is, in fact, an example of how the education line determines one’s life. In Malaysia, students are taught early on what they need to do and this is what drives them to achieve what they want. Typically, Malaysian adults would spend most of their adult life working and building themselves. Their adult life progresses dramatically and they would find themselves retiring and indulging in what retirees do best- watching TV and supposedly enjoying remnants of their life. As for those in developed countries, they are taught of everything and anything there is to life. Their work life as an adult not only focuses on their profession, but many of them strive to explore more corners when it comes to earning and learning. As a matter of fact, retirement does not mean taking a rest, but for many of those residing in developed countries, they have the desire to constantly involve themselves in areas that continue to nurture them. However, not everyone is labeled in such a way despite where they originate from, but what’s obvious is how different educational upbringing defines one’s desire to achieve more in life.

In like manner, when we base our idea upon the understanding that education should nurture us, not only will we be able to understand that there is so much more to this world, but we can also take the opportunity to divulge ourselves with countless of interests. Relating back to the level of normality in education, what is exercised in my country is to create a generation made for professional sectors. Students are molded to fit working life but their minds are not progressed to think wider and further. For instance, seven- year- old me in Malaysia was taught that roses are red, but a five- year- old student in Germany is taught that roses can come in varieties of color. The realm of normality in this matter itself is prodigious when being compared- It shows that one student can be more advantaged with their mind, imagination and knowledge. Teaching students broader information allows them to understand not just one idea, but many other probable explanations from a singular fact. As the saying goes, the whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows. For example, from the primary idea of knowing that roses can come in a variety of colors, students should then find out that black rose exists. In understanding its existence, students would then be taught that the black rose grows only in one particular region in Turkey, as the condition of the area allows for the growth of that specific rose.

Equally important, if one were to remain in the situation where education is molded to prepare for working life, the likeability that they are to come up with various alternatives to counter challenges is scarce. The idea that education should prepare students for working life solely limits one’s knowledge and capability. That being said, when subjects are projected to build students towards a specific career, their interests on other aspects depletes- and truth be told, what’s amazing about the human mind is that it is capable of being engrossed with infinite information, and it is almost a disgrace to not exercise what our minds are capable of. By the same token, it is a personal achievement when we know; we have learned all that we can throughout our lives.

For the most part, it is understood why certain lines of education are created differently from one another. Certain education lines take it up a notch in order to nurture their students more intensely and differently. Other education lines exercise a more straightforward approach in order to achieve proper education status. As such, I believe that the idea that education is to prepare students for working life isn’t something that is worth investing in regards to one’s future. It is important to have an aim in life, but eventually, the idea that one can barely understand other information is unfortunate. Essentially in life, it is vital for everyone, be it students or nurturers, to learn more than what they are taught, as education isn’t about achieving, it’s about fulfilling. Hence, we should all live to learn.

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