I’m from India for those wondering about which system I’m referring to, although this can be applied to varying extents everywhere. I heard(while in school) that most of what you learn in school will never be used later in life. My experience has so far confirmed this. In addition, as a college graduate, I’ve been made to re-learn practically all the specialized skills and knowledge I picked up in school. This seems ridiculous to me. So I’ve come up with a hypothesis and a possible solution I’d like to get everyone’s thoughts on.
“90%(percentage may vary) of the non-specialized things you learn from middle school upwards(school level may vary slightly) will be of little to no use to you later in life and can be safely dispensed with while the specialized things are re-learnt later ” where “non-specialized” refers to skills you don’t go on to specialize in later in life. For example, a person who goes on to become an architect needs excellent trigonometry skills(specialized skill), but not much higher biology(basic biology is taught earlier. I’m talking of the biology they teach you in higher levels of school with classification and scientific names and such.) Also, most college courses run refresher periods(like first few months/year) where they basically teach you the same stuff you learnt at higher school level again.
So I propose we CUT THE FAT out of the system. We take a leaf out of the book of colleges and vocational courses and radically re-design our school education system. It could go like this. We drastically increase customize-ability and choice points from middle school upwards with all absolutely basic education taken care of at lower levels. In India, we get to choose a crummy third language option at Std. 6 and between commerce and science at Std. 11(difference is just easier math with commerce and a few subject sets). Rather we make as few core subjects as possible going up(or do away with them entirely) and make individual(not sets of) subjects optional(choose your own unique course). This allows specialization and experimentation at a much younger age to a much greater degree than even in university(should be adopted here as well). It makes the learning experience more flexible, more relevant, more friendly, more creative, have greater quality(interested and specialized teachers) and more efficient by cutting down on turnover time. I’m sure around 3-4 years of school can be safely removed allowing people of 14 or so to finish school. This decreases educational spending by all parties and allows human resources to be employed sooner(14 being minimum employment age in India) or to go for higher studies(with changes in age restrictions for university). This also solves another problem of educational seats capacity in developing countries. Rather than constantly having to increase oodles of seats each year(the current scenario), we could quicken the rate at which seats become available as well(fast-track college courses already achieve this). You won’t lose anything since you’re only cutting out the things which will be wasted later anyway.
Or you could keep the same length of school education with all the customization(if you really want to), but offer them a huge number of options to choose from as they go up. They could even take courses on photography at lower levels. Basically to blur the distinction between school and college/vocational. Example:History isn’t necessary as a major course. Neither is a second(or third) language. These sorts of subjects will become optional subjects. So will higher math, biology, etc.
But how is a young student to know what he’ll do later in life, you ask? How do we know what will be wasted? Well, many people pursuing even graduate degrees still don’t know what they want. Sometimes even experts change. I know a nuclear physicist who now practices astrology for a living(He was successful.He just had a change of heart). The point is that such a flexible system allows for easy re-training, experimentation and promotes curiosity. The vocational system already addresses this. As do university courses for mid-level professionals. Or specialized college courses for everyone(there are even courses in photography if you want to be one. No age limit.)
And standardized exams? Simple. Like university, prepare subject papers and evaluation techniques/requirements rather than one board exam(for 10th. Two for 12th).
Why waste so much time, effort and money. Everyone seems to lose in the present system except the bureaucrats whose work is made simpler by this silly “one-size-fits-all” policy. So what do you think? It’s a drastic re-modelling, but I think it makes a lot more sense. Your thoughts, opinions, advice, criticisms, etc. are most welcome.
Note: I already asked in Education and Reference. Don’t bother pointing that out.
If you haven’t been getting too many responses it’s probably because of how long your post is.
I don’t like your model. It asks too much of the student at a younger age and ignores the true purpose of children’s education.
Let me ask you this. Why does anyone study Shakespeare? Yes he was a great writer (Supposedly) and is worthy of scholarly study, but why teach him to children. What is the purpose? I imagine this is what you feel for most of the “wasted” subjects people study as children. In simples terms it’s because if you can learn to understand Shakespeare, you can understand damn near anything.
The purpose of educating our youth is not just to stick facts in their head, is not to spit out more cogs for the machine. It is to teach our children how to think. Literature teaches culture and understanding, math teaches logic, sciences teach observation & critical thinking, art teaches creativity, all these are different ways of thinking and when a student grows up they will likely focus on one particular method but because of their education they will have a firm grasp of all.
I guess the argument is do you want a bunch of specialists, or do you want students to be well rounded? 150 years ago it might have been fine for kids to just learn letters and numbers and then focus on their specialty, but we live in a much more complicated world and if you don’t have that all rounded background you could end up lost when you finally get out there.
And you are talking like when a person goes out there he will immediately find the job he studied. How many people studied engineering only to become drug reps, or when from working on Wall Street to construction. You can’t always get the “dream job” you want. The vast majority of people don’t work in the fields they studied and it’s not because they want to do astronomy instead, but because they could not get a job in their field either because they were not good enough, or there were no jobs available. A well rounded person will be better able to adjust to a different field than a person who is so specialized that he knows nothing else.
It seems to me that your model is designed for the exceptions to the rule, for the kids who at a young age not only know what they want to do, but are intelligent, flexible and have the money to do so. It does not cater for… well for people like me, people who are slow to change, who did not have the best grades and don’t know what they want to do and can’t afford to learn anything new. Your system will force those who are not ready to make life choices that they will not be able to deviate from while they are still children. I wish I’d grown up in a system that moved slower, that would allow me to experience and experiment more while I was still young, instead of forcing me to pick O-level subjects when I was 13.
Most places I believe already have an accelerated programme for people like you, though many are shutting those down as they lead to social ineptitude as adults. Still, if you can do what you described above then I think there should be a place like that for you. But as an across the board shift in educational styles, it is certainly lacking.
on: 2nd August 10