Is Formal Education useful? | Do Schools really “Kill creativity”?
So if I ask you a very simple question that why do so many people in India take engineering, what would be your response? What is the reason why so many people in India take engineering as their undergrad degree? The answer is very simple, that taking engineering is a safe option because it is based on conventional wisdom. So conventional wisdom generally means that if the majority of the population is doing something, it must be right. That is what conventional wisdom means. And that is how a majority of the people, according to me, make life altering decisions that they consider conventional wisdom to be the epitome of decision making. And they take it as the safest bet out there and they make a decision as per what the crowd is doing. So this, according to me, is a very incorrect way of living your life. So in this blog, I’m going to speak a little bit about that why is it OK to go against conventional wisdom and how you can go about building that mindset? And whether to put in formal education system in school or not.
So let’s get started with this So just a very quick disclaimer that this is not a criticism video of private schools, or schooling system in India. These are just my opinions. The point that I want to drive home through this blog is very, very simple, that number one, it’s OK to make contrary decisions and number two, the schooling system in India might not be beneficial for a lot of people. So that’s the viewpoint that I want to put forth. Again, a very quick request that I’m speaking against multi billion dollar private school industry. It’s a contrarian viewpoint. So, of course, there might be a lot of backlash here.
Marks Greater than Skill
School actually focus on marks rather than promoting and building skills. I’ll repeat this again that schools actually focus on marks and the entire journey become about getting more and more marks rather than developing that skill set that can prove to be valuable in the real world. Now, I can give you a lot of data to prove this hypothesis, but let me do a Q&A exercise with you. So question number one OK, question number one is that what do you think governments care most about when they are looking at the schooling system? Now, of course, the first would be that they care about enrollment rate, that how many people are coming to school. Second, they would get about attendance rate. whether people are actually attending classes or teachers are coming or not. Third, they care the most about the pass percentage. So there was a case when I was younger. What happened was that somewhere in Bihar or UP, almost 40 percent of the state board exam failed the entire class that year, that it created so much hue and cry that next year, when the results came, almost every one passed, that the pass result went up to 90%. Some magic happened and people fundamentally changed the way that they studied in a year’s time. Now, you might argue with me that people might have been studying better or the quality of instruction might have gone up. But you and I are smart enough to realize that that would not have been really the case. Government intervention by beautifying the result actually created these stupendous results at the end of the year
what do you think that the teachers might care the most about when they are teaching a class? Your answer would be that they care about how much the kid is understanding. Correct. But how does it get measured? At the end of the day, the teacher becomes answerable to the school principal in terms of how well his or her class is doing, and that, again, is adjudicated by the marks. So that’s again, point number two. Question number three, what do you think parents care the most about? Just be honest about it. What do you think the parents care the most about? They care the most about marks again because they have to justify your marks to your relatives, to your neighbors. They have to, they get worried, if you are not scoring well, how would you get into college and a bunch of other things. So essentially, whether you look at it from a government point of view, whether you look at it from a teacher’s point of view, whether you look at it from a parent’s point of view, it all becomes a mad race for getting more and more and more marks. Now, just imagine the situation, what a kid would go through, somebody who is 10, 12 years old, who’s going to a school, always concerned about marks. The teachers are putting pressure on him. The parents are putting pressure on him. It becomes a mad race for that poor kid to get more and more and more marks. And the worst part is not this. The worst part is that kids actually start identifying and defining their existence. In terms of marks. For example, I’m sure that you’ll relate to this example. Sometimes parents tell their 10 year old or 12 year old kid that, hey, go befriend the class topper or sit next to the class topper. Again, how is that class topper defined? He or she is defined again by the marks. So right from a young age, the entire concept of getting more and more marks starts putting a lot of pressure on a kid. as a result, literally, no one, literally no one cares about what type of skills is the child building during his or her formative years. Now, you need to inter relate all these concepts regarding point one and try to ascertain how the world will be developing 20, 30 years from now. I think we are moving to a system where skills will be awarded more because it has become easier to display your skills. You can come in front of youtube, speak with an audience, they might like you.
You might be able to build your own portfolio through forums like Upwork, Fiverr, etc. So the world has actually started rewarding skills now. Now my prognosis is that going 15, 20 years down the line, this momentum is going to continue and people who do not develop skills, they will actually lag behind. And for that reason, I feel that sending your kids to a formal school system might not be the best idea.
Better Alternative Learning System
There are better alternate learning systems. For example, if you want to learn language, you can go and pick up Duolingo. You can install that app and start learning a new language. You can, in fact, keep rotating and learning multiple languages in one go itself. So that’s a huge value add. If you want to learn science and math, you can go to Khan Academy and start learning from an MIT, Harvard alumnus who can teach you very basic concepts in a very fluent. If you want to learn coding, oK, let me not get there. But I would still request you to comment some of the great free coding resources if you can comment on the comment box that might add value to the audiences who are reading this blog and they can avail those free resources. The point that I want to drive home is that a majority of these learning platforms be Duolingo, be it Khan Academy, number one, they are self-paced. So you can learn at your own pace own schedule. That’s one. Second, they promote customized learning that you can actually take care of the individual learning element. It’s not a group setting kind of a thing where you have to just compete with each other. So that’s a very important and fundamental concept. Third is that the quality of instructors here is very, very high. So let’s take the example of Khan Academy that the person who runs Khan Academy, he’s a wonderful teacher. He has been teaching for years. He’s passionate about teaching. He’s not doing it for money. There is that passion to teach. Now I’m not saying that all school teachers are bad, but, of course, if your child is exposed to the traditional education system, of course, out of 10 teachers that your child is interacting with, there is a high likelihood that at least two or three might not be quality instructors. So from that angle, I think that is a more effective medium to learn, and therefore I would prefer these alternate systems of learning.
Poor Return on Investment
Schools actually generate a poor ROI, return on investment. Let me explain and I can break this argument into two parts. One is that the schools generate poor ROM, which is a return on money. For example, the private schools, at least the good ones in Delhi, Mumbai, big cities, they charge a lot of fees. Now for an average school in Delhi, it can range from one lakh to 3 lakh rupees a year and it can go up to even 10 12 lakhs for major, massive schools. Now, this is a lot of investment for majority of the parents. Now, what return is my child getting by paying approximately twenty thousand rupees to a private school? You would have a hard time defining it. The argument would be that hey my kid actually goes in an AC bus, he or she sits in an AC classroom. In fact, during the time of admissions, just read the advertisements that private schools put up. And it’s really funny that they would project that we have a big playground, we have a big computer lab. It’s very digital, etc. etc.. That’s not really the way to project the value add that is coming from a school. So I personally feel that the return on money, that a school charges or private school charges, it’s not justified. That’s the first key part. The second and the more critical element is that the return on time that is generated by a private school is horrible. imagine this, that when you and I were kids, our parents actually focused their entire lives on us. All the vacations were planned during our summer vacations only. Now this trend has only exacerbated. Now there are things like math olympiad, science olympiad there are a bunch of Unit Tests quarterlies, what not. So if your kid is enrolled at a school, it becomes a logistical nightmare for the entire family to do anything together. It’s very difficult to take trips. It’s very difficult to pursue similar hobbies. It’s very difficult to even spend time together. So I feel that the return on time component is something that people do not think about when they are putting their kids in a schooling system. The school structure is designed in such a way that the entire family’s life, the entire family’s life actually revolves around the school curriculum.
let me answer some doubts that you might have.
1. Don’t you think that the child will become anti-social if he does not go into a schooling system?
The short answer is no. And here is the logical rationale to it. The reason is very, very simple. That actually the role of the school is to put your kid into an environment where they can interact with other children. That’s the goal. this goal can be replicated if you’re sending your kids to a language class, if you’re sending your child to swimming classes, dancing classes, Taekwondo classes, there can be a bunch of different ways in which these type of mini, socially engaging environments can be created, this can also be done online.
2. How will child get into a college?
Super easy. He can actually take SATs, he can go abroad. Even in India, there are multiple options where you don’t have to formally enroll in a schooling system to get into colleges. So this is very, very easy. In fact, if you look at the admission trends, especially abroad very, very closely, you will quickly realize that colleges abroad are considering profile building a key element to admissions. So if you have done practical internships, if you have started your own projects, if you have done a bunch of different things, if you have pursued different hobbies, if you have learned new languages, all these things will be valued by the college admissions team abroad.