Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Are schools and colleges all about getting grades, or is it about ‘learning’?

Is School about learning about the high-brow wonders of Nietzsche and the French Revolution? Becoming an educated member of society? Or was Mark Twain right when he said:

I’ve never let my schooling interfere with my education.

What do we mean when we’re say “getting grades” or “focusing on right or wrong answers”?

Well part of the reason for attending college and going through a degree program is to receive some sort of accreditation to prove that you know something about a certain amount of knowledge. You holding your diploma in your hand is not just a photo-op moment with your proud parents marking a transition into the next phase of your life, it’s also the moment you become recognized for having learnt the fundamentals. Let’s say civil Engineering, so now you can take that diploma back home and go in search of a real-life bridge-building engineering position at URS Corp., or HDR etc. You’ve proven yourself to the occupational or the professional world. So how do we know you know what you claim you know? By conducting some sort of evaluation or some metric of performance or maybe a grade on a test perhaps. If you’re going to college with something like that as your end-goal, focusing on getting the right answers and scoring well in exams is an absolute must. And in most technical degree programs, there is a definitive body of knowledge, whether in Engineering, Mathematics, Chemistry, Biology, that you need to master, which does have a set of “right” answers as currently agreed upon by the worldwide science community.

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s move on to the “learning” aspect.

Well I think here people are talking about having an educated life, working towards a higher-level human-interest-driven pinnacle of intellectual achievement, being sophisticated and fluently expressing views on politics, philosophy etc. First of all is this really something we want to strive for, or has the education we are searching for has been co-opted by the academic community? I may not know much about the whole sophisticated part but becoming an all-rounder is a must. This means you can relate to people, you can have a general conversation, and you can logically navigate real world problems, it’s not just about manipulating numbers and designing variables. Yes, being educated is very important and learning about history, philosophy etc is a part of it but should this be our main focus of our time dedicated towards our degree program? Should this even need to occur at a university? Learning and being educated is the most important thing in our lives as it is giving you a vehicle to fully experience your life. 

The thing is, we do this naturally, and I don’t agree that college is the best medium to fulfill this essential life skill. I definitely agree that grades are very important if you want to be an intellectual or an academician, but I generally feel the main learning happens outside the classroom by reading interesting books, exploring side projects. Grades should be our primary focus but there’s a way to do it, if you get your grades first and foremost, and do it efficiently, then there will be an abundance of time for you to explore reading, side projects, research opportunities, clubs, sports, co-ops and internships, etc. For you to “learn” in the truest sense of the word which also by no means stops when you exit college if you do it right. So follow Mark Twain, get your “schooling” taken care of, and you’ll have plenty of time to get your “education”. So my dear all, we must strive better to be an educated person rather than just being a literate one.

Dayanand House

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