The Role of Education is to Broaden Our Minds

By Gregory Omondi. Gregory, 29, lives in Nairobi, Kenya. He is a liaison officer in ‘start a library’, a reading promotion initiative in Kenya. Please read his article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

A popular Tibetan Proverb goes… ‘A child without education is like a bird without wings’. Many people view this as cliché, but we all know how true this is. Perhaps, the question that begs answers is: “Can it really be possible for us to fly”? This question was posed many years ago by Daedalus in the Ancient Athens mythology. While the attempt to fly resulted in tragedy, it brought us close to understanding how education empowers humanity to push beyond the comfort zones, to use resources at their disposal with the sole objective of liberating themselves from prison and set their minds free from ignorance. In framing my thoughts, I take the position that the role of education is to broaden our minds and provide learners with platforms for self-expression, for acquiring and consuming information, for solving problems, and ultimately for transforming the world by gaining a broader perspective of the world.

Growing up as a young and ambitious child, my teachers always reminded me of the need to pay attention to my education. “Education is the only determinant of your success and the hope of having a bright future”, they said. It was about concentrating in class, selecting the right subject combinations, studying hard to pass examinations, and choosing the right university and career. All these, I was told, was necessary to ensure that I got the right job, worked in the right organization, and accumulated enough wealth to lead a better life. Education was important in preparing me for the future work life. In fact, people perceived education as a formality and employers only focused on the specifics of the subjects one pursued and the grades scored in these subjects. Evidence of good grades, equated to presumed competence and a guarantee for attaining and retaining a job position within the working life.

I was lucky that my parents were ‘informed’, held a different perspective about the role, and real value of education in a person’s life. My father, having been raised in a family where access to education was a challenge and having struggled through school, understood the importance of acquiring practical and expert knowledge relevant to addressing different aspects of life, other than simply getting a job. My parents championed for provision of education that ensured our holistic development.

All my primary and high school life, I put in extra effort to get the right grades. However, in my final year in high school, I would experience stressful moments whenever examinations were near. In fact, at some time, I became sick when I had not prepared enough for the exams. I needed to score high grades that would enable me to pursue medicine in college. I remember my father speaking to me one evening and explaining a basic truth that I still appreciate today, “the purpose of education is to broaden one’s mind, to question information and ideas, and to grow both mentally and intellectually”, he explained.

At the time, I did not appreciate the wisdom in his words. Well, I did not get the ‘right’ grades and I never got into medical school. This was a disappointment, but my parents were not bothered. They knew better. Well, I did not make it to the ‘right’ college either. I ended up in business school, pursuing sales and marketing. I had never considered this field before. Recently, I was accepted into a Master of Science program in monitoring and evaluation, another field that I never considered pursuing while I was growing up. My father was thrilled. He sat me down and engaged me in a lengthy conversation. He said to me, “Son, the value of education is not in passing exams or getting the right jobs. These are illusions. They are the superficial benefits. The real value of education lies in its potential to broaden your mind”. This did not come as a surprise, given that he had always encouraged me to read broadly and widely. In fact, his words reminded me of the nuggets of wisdom that my professor of philosophy shared during my years in college, “Just like travel, education should take your minds to places that you have never been before”-he said.

I am glad that when I was growing up, I read as many storybooks as I could. I did not read just to pass exams but rather for pleasure, enjoyment and entertainment. I read history, geography, fiction, academic and non-fiction. I did all this because I enjoyed reading, getting lost into books and finding new information. I had not come across the abundant research that proves the connection between reading and broadening one’s mind, which I have acquainted myself with now that my daily job entails enhancing access to books and programming for children.

Over time, I appreciate the significance of acquiring knowledge that transcends the need to pass exams. Today, I read virtually anything that I lay my hands on, and encourage the children I work with to read as much as possible for knowledge. A broad knowledge equips one with the relevant skills essential for living, including decision-making, critical thinking, problem solving, imagination, curiosity and creativity. All these skills are important in molding one into a responsible person able to find solutions to the day-to-day problems and challenges that life presents.

I am a firm believer in the value of lifelong learning. I believe that education is not only non-exhaustive but also an opportunity for a person to keep acquiring knowledge; to keep growing and expanding their mental and intellectual space. I always advice the people I work with to broaden their horizon and mindset as much as possible. This is only possible by reading widely and interacting with a wide range of resources. It means going beyond the subjects that one is interested in. It means using both the online and offline tools to read more. It means reading blogs, books, articles, magazines and newspapers, not only for news, but also for knowledge. It means reading about engineering or farming or archeology or thermodynamics or mathematics, or aeronautics or drilling or thermal energy or geology, when you clearly have nothing to do with the subjects. That is what constitutes reading for knowledge and broadening one’s mind.

One of my famous quotes is Joseph Addison’s “Reading is to the mind, what exercise is to the body”. No one can challenge the basic truth in this statement. More importantly, reading widely equips us with knowledge that exercises our minds to challenge predominant narratives and stereotypes. When we seek and acquire greater knowledge, we achieve transformation in our mindsets. A transformed mindset is critical in overcoming pre-existing misconceptions about life. Education sets us above par, enables us to consume knowledge critically. When we assume a critical approach, we always ask the ‘why?’, ‘why not’ and ‘what if’ questions, which enables us to challenge the basic or common ‘truth’, expands our understanding and positions us as scientists, able to create and co-create new knowledge. Most importantly, we need to evaluate the value of education to the extent to which it transforms our lives and builds our capacity to make informed choices, live responsibly and lead more fulfilling lives.

The bottom-line is that perceiving education is only important for passing exams and preparing for work life is a myopic view that should be discouraged. When we focus on educating our children to get the ‘right’ grades, college, and job, then we are setting them for failure from the onset. We are raising a generation that cannot think. We need to prepare our children for the future by investing in an education that focuses on broadening their minds. Children should be encouraged to ask many questions from their peers, family, and teachers. Children should be encouraged to consume and generate knowledge through focusing and reinforcing their information seeking habits. This is only possible by nurturing a generation of lifelong readers, thinkers and critical consumers of knowledge. In his words of wisdom, Sir Francis Bacon, an English philosopher, says, “read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider”. Education ought to broaden our minds to weigh and consider everything we read, experience and encounter in life.

 

54 comments on “The Role of Education is to Broaden Our Minds

  1. Eric Obar on

    Wonderful Article!
    It is true that education broadens our mind.
    It is the avenue in which knowledge is passed on from one generation to another.

    Reply
  2. Maureen Wambui on

    All through my schooling life the one thing that was constantly drummed into me was that education was for exams, nothing else. I remember in high school the teacher would punish you if you were found reading storybooks, and we would have to read them covered up inside the textbooks. It was hard, but it would have been much harder if I had not read these books, if I had not had a chance to experience the world past the confines of my textbooks. That’s what education should be, a tool that broadens the mind and guides you to the limitless possibilities that the world has to offer.

    Reply
    • Gregory Omondi on

      Very true. Education is the greatest equalizer. The weapon that sets minds free. Education ought to open a world of opportunities and possibilities for children

      Reply
    • Gregory Omondi on

      I recognize myself in this scenario too. Opening days after the holiday vacation were my worst days in high school. There was something about ‘opener exams’. How were we supposed to do these exams after a long holiday break spent visiting uncles and relatives?

      Reply
      • Maureen Wambui on

        YEEESSS!
        Opening week was so difficult for me because I had almost forgotten how to write at that point. In fact, I would always use that time to just read storybooks from home and the ones other ppeople had bought. Got caught more than once ‘wasting time’ , as the teachers called it, but it was all worth it.

        Reply
  3. Zaippeline Oindi on

    I must confess that I can’t help but re-read this article more than once. It’s inspirational and has completely changed my perspective on the role education plays in a person’s life. I have discovered that my original viewpoint on the role of education was so myopic!

    Reply
  4. Eugene Uginda on

    Reading this article reminds me of how my parents would pester me with their expectations regarding my academic achievements. While they were not privileged enough to see me through my schooling, their perspective of education remained with me. I experienced episodes of stress whenever I failed to attain the ‘right’ grades. This article is enlightening as it reveals the realities of role of education in human life. It provides an opportunity to change perspectives and help the young to develop as complete human beings.

    Reply
      • Gregory Omondi on

        I remember. Our teacher used to say that if we don’t pass exams we will be grave diggers in the villages. Remember this? It gave me nightmares. We had no future unless we passed exams and got right jobs!

        Reply
    • Egla on

      I’m lucky enough to have a mum who filled the house with books since before I could read. And not just textbooks. I’ll always be grateful to her (even though she only did it so I wouldn’t watch TV).

      Reply
  5. kinyua F. Njeru on

    I like the article,education really provides a platform where human brain explores places. It builds one’s esteems to explore challenging situations in life.

    Reply
  6. Moses Kimani on

    This is one of the best articles I have come across. How I wish the current generation can pass this knowledge to posterity.

    Reply
    • Gregory Omondi on

      We have a responsibility to make the changes we want and transform the kind of education we give our children. It starts with a paradigm shift in our mindset. We are currently reconstituting our curriculum. I hope it will be more skills-based and progressive in order to nurture and sustain the young talent in our country.

      Reply
  7. Victor Mugera on

    Great stuff Mr. Omondi. You never disappoint. Not only do you unlock the unknown, but you give the world a new viewpoint of things. It has been interesting to read this article and pledge to reread it until it seeks deep into my cognitive nerves. I once heard Bishop Kiuna say that Education is not meant to help humans secure employment, but to expand there thinking (Paraphrased)
    God’s grace be with you Bro

    Victor Mugera

    Reply
  8. Geoffrey on

    A wonderful and inspirational article.The author has captured the real essence of education in a way ignored by most writers.This is a great piece of work and must read masterpiece

    Reply
  9. martin on

    u reminded me of those days trying to read and study on my own because my dad couldn’t understand what education meant for me, now here am. I appreciate my sponsor who took me up and gave me education. I can see life differently now. I love reading brother. thanks

    Reply
  10. Evelyne on

    This article reminds me of my folks, the only language they could clearly understand was “position one’. Anyone in our family who scored less than that could receives a couple of canes over school holidays. I grew up knowing if i dont excel in my studies then i will lead a lineage of poverty. Thank God to exposure and constant mentorship, my mind has been broadened and i have been able to view life differently.

    Reply
  11. Dawn Makena on

    Great article Greg! I resonate with this article and agree that Education is meant to broaden the mind. Our current school curriculum promotes rote learning which contradicts the real purpose of Education. My father ans sisters are book lovers and so am I. I read widely and wildly:)

    Reply
  12. Gilbert Ng'ang'a on

    its an educating and helpful content about education, I have started seeing education in another perspective than I used to see it earlier.
    Thanks Greg.

    Reply
  13. Titus K on

    A good read. He said to me, “Son, the value of education is not in passing exams or getting the right jobs. These are illusions. They are the superficial benefits. The real value of education lies in its potential to broaden your mind”.

    Reply
    • Gregory Omondi on

      This was the statement that changed my life. To learn that my dad understood the value of education, and pushed me to see the world through his eyes was a wonderful thing. An Ibo poem says, “What an old man sees sitting down, a young man cannot see standing up”.

      Reply
  14. Dedan on

    For me, all those systematic Bureaucracies of traditional schools jaded me. For me, I still I couldn’t understand why we have to have a factory style education for children living in the 21st century. Why hold them in place, asking them to read and repeat and giving them a number of tasks to finish? I still have no idea how exams and objective assessments could measure human behavior or intelligence. Is it some kind of barcoding human aptitude? Is it ethical anyway

    Reply
  15. Dedan on

    For me, all those systematic Bureaucracies of traditional schools jaded me. For me, I still I couldn’t understand why we have to have a factory style education for children living in the 21st century. Why hold them in place, asking them to read and repeat and giving them a number of tasks to finish? I still have no idea how exams and objective assessments could measure human behavior or intelligence. Is it some kind of barcoding human aptitude? Is it ethical anyway

    Reply
  16. Dedan on

    For me, all those systematic Bureaucracies of traditional schools jaded me.I still couldn’t understand why we must to have a factory style education for children living in the 21st century. Why hold them in place or a room, asking them to read and repeat and giving them a number of tasks to finish? I still have no idea how exams and objective assessments could measure human behavior or intelligence. Is it some kind of barcoding human aptitude? Is it ethical anyway

    Reply
  17. Rehema Bancy on

    i really do love reading n that was from a long tym ago n am intrigued that more people are getting to appreciate reading to gain knowledge not for evaluation purposes..with all these knowledge you have the potential to mingle n fit in with people of dfft school of thoughts and mindsets,you get to see life from dfft persepective,you to understand why people reason n they do n best of all you get to appreciate all ideas ….knowledge is the only way of getting rid of ignorance and arrogance even the Bible riducles…
    Nice read though*

    Reply
  18. Nelly on

    Great work Gregory, as said education is the key to success;an enlightened society has a higher percentage of having positive growth in all sectors,moreso focusing on achieving their vision.Wishing you all the best

    Reply
  19. Angela Muchemi on

    Amazing article Greg. Education equip individuals of all ages with the skills and knowledge needed to be productive and successful individuals.
    All the best

    Reply
  20. Mathew Sang on

    Wonderful, inspiring article! Undeniably, education is beyond passing exams neither is it focused in getting a well-paying job. Yes, it can but in a broader sense, education is a reflection of a good civilization. We get civilized through a progressive and innovative education system.
    Apart from being equipped in terms of skills, I also have also concluded from this article that education makes the society aware about how we can be a good social being and how we can help each other in our daily life. It removes blanket of ignorance and helps us in knowing each other through our fundamental rights

    Reply
  21. Eric Obar on

    Education is the key to a brighter and prosperous future to everyone nation.
    “Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”

    Reply
  22. Marshall Tanimwet on

    Nice piece! I vouch for reading for pleasure. I never specialized in History back in high school, but nowadays I’m fascinated by reading history materials and watching history documentaries. So learning should never stop. One can even challenge self by solving at least five mathematics equation daily or doing something totally different … I don’t, just saying

    Reply
  23. Anne on

    Great insights! What stands out the most for me in this article is the role of parents in our education journey. Growing up, my parents always emphasized the value of holding the first position in class. And, there was nothing wrong with that. However, there is much more than good grades that education has to offer. With my younger siblings, i am determined to show them that education does indeed broaden once mind. Education goes beyond the classroom- its how we live, love , act, react…… Education is life itself.

    Reply
  24. Kennedy Buhere on

    Great article. I m a product of wide reading. Courtesy of early exposure to thrilling oral narratives by my grandmother, mother and excellent English language teachers in Primary and secondary education.

    Wide reading across disciplines impart depth and breadth in knowledge, skills and ability.

    Reply
  25. Phenny Lonyi on

    My dad understood the value of education in broadening minds. Even though he did not tell us, we saw it as he read and stocked his library with every book he came across. Thanks Greg for the great article.

    Reply
  26. Hillary N on

    Your dad ndio yule msee. Reminiscent of Mark Twain’s words, never let schooling get in the way of your learning. While we mull over these words, (which many might misinterpret to mean that schooling is not that important), it boils down to the role of parents in education or learning of their children.

    A parent who understands that the mind is so elastic that all the learning of the world can never stretch it to its limits, even if he himself/ herself had a limited opportunity to learn and unlearn, is a godsend. That is the kind of parent who knows that formal schooling is but one of the many avenues you can use to broaden your mind. When the learner gets the gist of it, the end result is success.

    While controlled education helps you find focus in your life, it is the ability to learn and unlearn that helps you conquer. You discover. You invent. You become the best in your field. Because you are willing to unravel.

    So, is dropping out of college a good idea? That is a controversially debatable topic, but I’m disappointed by those who try to ram it into us that maybe it is a good idea because it opens you up. Just because Jack Ma, Zuckerberg or Bill Gates did so. These successful ‘dropouts’ are countable though. Very few. But they stayed focused towards their goal. It is therefore important to broaden our minds without losing focus of what exactly we want to achieve, IMO.

    Reply
    • Gregory Omondi on

      Interesting comments and thoughts here. Indeed, our parents are the pillars, foundation and building blocks for our learning experience. They are not only the people we interact with and learn from the moment we are born, but they also have the power of prophesy, to speak into our lives, shape and order our future. It is a powerful thing to have a parent who takes time to affirm the child, to support and even to provide opportunities for learning: This is what my parents have done for me.

      Regarding the question of whether dropping out of college is a good idea, I think it is debatable. Unfortunately, in Kenya formal education still remains the avenue through which we judge the success or failure of our children. Perhaps it is time we re-look at our entire system and re-define what constitutes valuable education. I still believe that formal schooling was relevant and did open immense opportunities for me. That is why upto now I seek and pursue further education.

      I would like to hear more ideas about this though…

      Reply

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