Ain’t no pigeonhole big enough

By Reza Ghahremanzadeh. Reza, 28, is from Northern Ireland. Please read his article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

Should the role of education be to prepare students for working life, or to broaden their mind?

The question at hand seems to reinforce, in my view, the idea that our society is hell-bent on commercialising even abstract things such as education. I think that treating education as a product isn’t necessarily the best approach. I also believe that in this case the role of education cannot be reduced to an either/or. Education is very much an umbrella term, and to assign it with a singular purpose is to reduce it.

Let’s get the existential argument out of the way first. We could pontificate about what the role of anything should be. And there will always be conflicting answers. There will always be an element of discord, because people can have vastly different opinions about universal things.

Education is certainly an important stepping-stone with regards to securing certain types of jobs. The majority of employers will demand some sort of qualification from their applicants. And so yes, you could most certainly argue that one of the main purposes of education is to help students gain qualifications and thus improve their chances of securing employment. However, what we have to remember is that even an education that is geared solely on the goal of gaining employment is not impervious to the whims of the economy. A recession can manifest itself at any given moment. Jobs become scarce during the recession and the job market becomes extremely competitive. It therefore seems unwise to perceive the role of education as simply a tool to gain employment. I mentioned in the introduction that treating education like a product doesn’t seem to be the right approach. A good education, in my view, is a journey. It’s a journey that can help us grow emotionally, mentally, and socially. Some of its positive effects may even occur on a subconscious level. To pigeonhole it as something that must provide us with one thing in one particular way seems to be an insight into the way our ego operates in a capitalist framework.

The structure of a traditional education certainly lends itself to the idea of preparing students for working life. Traditional schooling and traditional jobs have many things in common. Both environments feature fixed hours, power chains and deadlines that must be met.

It could also be argued that educational establishments broaden minds simply by having a high level of diversity with respect to the students they choose to enrol. Educational establishments give young people the opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life. The person sitting next to them may be the same age and wearing the same uniform, but there’s a good chance that they’ve had very different life experiences. I certainly think that educational establishments have a moral responsibility to be a diverse and multicultural as possible. This will help broaden the minds of their students and also prepare them for working with all kinds of people in the public and private sectors.

The broadening of minds certainly seems like one of the fundamental roles of education. But I firmly believe that the broadening of a mind involves much more than the simple acquisition of knowledge. I also believe that whilst education can be an effective catalyst in helping to broaden minds, a great deal of the work must be done by the individuals, both in and away from the academic setting. Teachers should, in my view, ignite a desire for lifelong learning in their students.

Our minds have the potential to expand and grow long after our formal education ends.

The first teacher any child has is their parent or guardian. And I think it’s important to emphasise their role with respect to broadening the minds of the children in their care. I believe that they have an obligation to instil important values at a young age. Educators can clearly work in conjunction with parents and guardians, but they should not be expected to do all of the work by themselves. It’s no coincidence that the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” resonates deeply with people in all different parts of the world.

It is ultimately up to ourselves to get to where we want to go in life. Educators certainly have a responsibility to imbue their students with knowledge. But there are some things that simply can’t be taught. They can’t manifest ambition, tenacity and perseverance within their students. Those qualities must come from them. Placing all of the responsibility on educators undermines the power of self-actualisation. Without that, you aren’t going anywhere.

To summarise, it is clear that helping students secure employment and helping to broaden their minds are two crucial roles that education should strive to achieve. What is also clear is that both of these goals are by no means guaranteed. And they also require a terrific amount of work from the individuals themselves. I strongly believe that every single human on the planet deserves a quality education. After that, it is up to the graduate to step into the world and try their best to make their dreams come true. Unfortunately, there are still too many countries where education is denied to its citizens. I think that our role should be to ensure that this does not remain the case for much longer.

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