You are probably in love with a man, who you want to spend the rest of your life with. Then one day, you decide to take him home to see your parents. And your mum says in a scornful voice, “You can’t marry him; he’s not educated,” simply because he does not have a university degree. While you are trying to convince your mum that there’s a difference between going to school and being educated, your dad adds, “It won’t work. I can’t have an illiterate for a son in-law.” Now it dawns on you that many people do not recognize the wide discrepancies between schooling and education. Education is probably the most misunderstood word in the English language. When someone is awarded a first-class degree in Law or Engineering, or is able to speak English with a foreign accent, we point our fingers at them and say they are educated. Is Education just about going to school and acquiring certificates? Isn’t there more to it?
A saying goes, “Give a man a fish, and he will be hungry again tomorrow; teach him to catch a fish, and he will be richer all his life.” Well, permit me to say that our parents lied to us. Not just our parents. Our teachers. The society. The government. Everyone. They all lied to us. They told us to go to school, read our books and pass our exams, so we can become successful in the near future. This seems very reasonable, but unfortunately, our school system is very unreliable. Schools teach you to accept the information you are given and not to question it, and if you dare question what is written in the book, you are likely to fail the subject. It’s possible you can go to school and spend lots of years there and still not be educated, don’t you think? Education means much more than schooling and can happen anywhere, anytime; it is not dependent on teachers and classrooms. It is about problem-solving and its application to societal issues. It usually starts with curiosity and a search for information. Schooling, on the other hand, does not encourage a curious mind, creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. Rather, you are forced to memorize the multiplication table and the names of all the political parties in Nigeria, and write them down word for word in the exam hall. You are taught that the plural of fox is “foxes” whereas the plural of ox is “oxen” instead of “oxes.” You don’t know why it is so and you don’t bother to ask your teacher. Your teacher probably doesn’t know too and won’t tolerate it if you ask questions. Many teachers are impatient with students who ask a lot of questions and in most cases, such students are seen as dull. Intelligent students should just master what they are taught and not ask too many questions. Isn’t it high time schools encouraged inquisitive minds, coupled with practical solution to problems, rather than mindless regurgitation of facts and figures?
Mark Twain said, “I never let schooling get in the way of my education.” But in the country today, I think many parents and teachers are getting it all wrong. When a father sees his son playing chess, he flares up and shouts, “What are you doing? Go and read your books straight away!” And when a mother sees her daughter skipping a rope, she says, “Stop that! Go and learn the names of states and their capitals instead.” To them, every other thing you do apart from what your school teaches you is a waste of time. Maybe someone should remind them that playing chess helps a child improve their problem-solving skills. Playing video games like Minecraft helps build a child’s creativity. Watching movies can help a child explore the world by being exposed to various cultures. Travelling and meeting people enables a child to learn more about their lives and stories. Skipping a rope helps develop eye-hand coordination. These are all forms of education and they help to create a balance in the life of a child. Or is education all about cramming the names of all the presidents of the United States, both dead and alive?
It’s quite sad that certificates have become the yardstick for employment instead of practical experience. You’ve probably heard people say, “I don’t like school. I’m just here so I can get my certificate- and then leave.” They are not to blame, if you ask me. Too much importance has been attached to certificates and that’s not the way to go. Let’s say I know a lot about computer programming and web design by watching YouTube videos, but I’ve never been to school, while my friend Ifeoma has a BSc in Computer Science, but she is not half as computer literate as I am. I bet you, she will get the job at my expense the moment she presents her certificate. Nobody has the time to investigate your practical expertise. Little wonder people cram textbook answers, even without knowing what they mean, since that is the surest route to acquiring the much-treasured certificate.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” This quote is popularly attributed to Albert Einstein and it underlines the poor standards by which schools judge smart and stupid in their students. Well, in the long run, has it really reflected on the society that those who were adjudged smart by the schools they attended, were actually smart, while those adjudged stupid were actually stupid? University graduates roam the streets in search of jobs when schools should have taught them to create jobs instead. It’s quite ironical that pioneers of the world’s most notable inventions had little or no formal education. You know Thomas Edison. You’ve heard of Steve Jobs. The name “Wright Brothers” rings a bell, doesn’t it? I could go on and on and on. And as for the first-class graduates, we seldom hear about them the moment they leave school. Well, the schools got it all wrong- and parents too, by giving the kids fish, instead of teaching them how to fish.