Is Formal Education Really Necessary?

Credits: Unsplash / Vasily Koloda

“The only legacy I have for you is your education. You better study hard, pass, and graduate so you don’t have to be a slave to anyone?”

Growing up, I cannot tell you how many times I heard the above. Our household was such that if you came home with a bad grade report, you were in trouble. The consequences were grave and somewhat, retrospectively, humiliating that you’d vow “never again!” Those of us who were “born smart” got it worse than the rest. The expectations to be learned was set high for us at an early age. We knew that we had to succeed educationally because it was our ticket to getting a great job and subsequently being successful in life. At least that was what we were told and believed.

Our household was not the exception. It was sort of the norm among Nigerian families: parents expect their children to attend school/university and succeed. The culture was such that imposed on you what you studied. Only few households considered the children’s opinion in the process. Of course, the parents paid the educational tab. Even when parents couldn’t afford the tab, the son/daughter was still expected, as an honor, to abide by the parents’ request of the chosen degree. Most degrees then revolved around engineering, doctor, lawyer, business, IT, or teaching. The outlier degrees were few and the exception. But, modernization has evolved parental perceptions and hopefully broadened the options.

I wish though that I could have a sit-down conversation with my beloved late Dad on those perspectives now. That would be one for when we eventually meet in heaven.

“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.”

B. B. King

But, for now … I know that, except you were an inventor, creator, serial entrepreneur, a successful athlete, or won the lottery, you’d still have to slave for another either temporarily or permanently.

Just a minute, athletes still have to adhere to the requests (or demands) of their owners, right? So I don’t know if they fall in the category.

Anyways, “slavery” to another is, as we all know, independent of graduating in any laude class (cum, magna, or summa), but merely a foundational platform required to be able to shape our own destiny, hold a literal conversation, or have a respectful place in society.

So, is formal education important and is’t for everyone?

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”

Nelson Mandela

Permit me to say though that we must strive to change our own world first before being ambassadors to the world.

Personally, I believe that it is important to pass through the formal educational path. I’m also a proponent for a degree; whatever you do with the degree afterwards, is your prerogative. What’s the point going to high school or college and not graduating? And, except, of course, you are a genius with an IQ of 150 and above and of the calibers of Bill Gates, late Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, et al, in the one percentile category of the world population, you’d be better off with a formal education than without.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”
Albert Einstein

The educational path, if you pass through and do your part, teaches you a lot of things that one couldn’t get elsewhere. Such things, in addition to knowledge, as the importance of following instructions, meeting deadlines, working under pressure, punctuality, teamwork, etc. Some of these qualities can be learned or acquired on-the-job, but most often if one doesn’t get these traits passing through sixteen or more years of education, one tends to struggle with them at work or in society.

What are your thoughts on this?

Having said that, however, I also don’t believe, as a woman of faith knowing what I do know, (and please, I don’t know much, but this one thing that I do know) that no one is immune from being able to grasp (understand) the educational rigors. Remember the saying, “if you believe you can (or can’t), guess what, you can/will (can’t/won’t). [smile]. I hope I didn’t lose you with that. Please stay with me.

I get it that faith has been given a bad rap, but all of us act in faith, or have at some point. The difference is in the source/root of the faith. Also, many call faith by other names; such as, guts, boldness (or courage), instinct, awakening, awareness, etc. The point is that we all believe in something and or someone.

Not to digress. Arguing that formal education is not for everyone is a both a matter of debate and subjectivity. Some children with dyslexic tendencies, or other forms of learning disabilities, have been canceled out of the formal educational system. This is sad because technology and innovation have changed and leveled most, if not all, playing fields. For example, I have seen a tv commercial of a deaf man and his family. I think the deaf man is a design manager at Amazon. (I might be wrong regarding the managerial position and/or the company and will correct once verified.) How was he able to learn his craft? If he was able to, there’s no longer an excuse for anyone is the point that I’m making.

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education”

Martin Luther King

More of the Sages’ Thoughts on Education

I conclude with more supporting quotes on Education for your pleasure. If you have a good one, too, please feel free to include it in the comments.

  • Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.” – Albert Einstein
  • “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” George Washington Carver
  • Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X
  • “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” – Aristotle
  • If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.” – Chinese Proverb

Having read my post, I’m curious as to your stance. Please remember the title “Is Formal Education Necessary?” Thanks for adding your thoughts in the comments.

7 thoughts

  1. First, I apologize for the delayed response. Your comment was not visible on my phone, until one day when I logged on to my laptop. I retrieved it from the Spam and was going to reply, but still it was not visible. I actually thought it disappeared. Got on the laptop this morning, and was surprised to find it still. Sorry about that.

    Thanks for stopping by, reading, and participating in the conversation. Your stand is noted and appreciated. I also remember the 3Rs (Reading, WRiting, and ARithmetic) 🙂 and totally agree with you that students should not be restricted to formal education. It takes a holistic educating of the student.
    Your comments are noted and appreciated. I apologize again for the late reply, but please stop by again.
    Thanks

    Like

  2. Having learned when school was still about the 3Rs and teacher taught, I later taught myself and was aghast at how much things had crumbled. While I was getting my student teaching completed, I discovered some had attempted destroying a couple candidates simply because they weren’t like the rest, though they were very professional. Throughout the years, we saw the light going out of young people eyes the longer they were in these propaganda camps, but we did everything we could to reverse the tide and make excellence valuable again. **I think the time of public education has long passed it’s usefulness. I know. It’s all we know. But no: it isn’t. This country was founded upon self-learners, and many of the most successful didn’t rely on public anything. The ones who raise the bar would never allow them to be limited by group think, propaganda, and the dum#ing down of curriculum. And in this, parents have access to resources never before. They can get together, with other parents, and group the kids/teens to learn together, with responsible supervision.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Well said, Sean. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Your comment is also apropos as I am about to post another on the topic. I agree with you that though formal education is important, the key is to have an open mind to learning. Continuous training and development sharpens us all and falls under the non formal education.
    I appreciate your contribution.

    Like

  4. I love this post. It is such an important subject and question. The great aspect regarding formal education is it has the potential to help the learner develop an open mind. The world doesn’t progress without open or inquiring minds, despite through history, opposition to such people. Many with a formal education do achieve a broader mindset, but not all.

    Einstein wasn’t a particularly good school student, but as an academic he shone because he could think and use his open mind.

    In medieval times, a masters degree was rare and for a long time the highest degree that could be attained. The PhD or doctorate as the highest level qualification today, is only a recent development, despite it being around for 1,000 years. In many Asian cultures, historically, the focus was on achieving the state (imperial) exam. It was a way of bringing to heel the aristocracy. However, the success rate was low, and so highly competitive. Interestingly, the concept of the state exam was later adopted by Europe and America.

    I certainly believe formal or higher education is important. However, I have hired many people over the years who have not attained higher education (in particular mums returning to the workforce and older men and women) with success time and time again. Training and development on the job is key in this situation. Conversely, I have seen how younger, better educated people coming through are much more open to new ideas. This is important in the workplace of today and tomorrow because those who can quickly adapt to continuous key technological changes will see their organisation have a future. Such rapid technological change is also one of the ironies of the pandemic.

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