Opinion: Education – what is the objective?


By Ranjit Hulugalle

Each day we have numerous articles on what is wrong with the education system, arguing that children must be taught how to think, not what to think.

Frankly this has been the broken record for 70 years since the Kannangara education reforms, making education accessible to all. We simply have not corrected the mistake we made then, by not teaching the teachers well enough to develop a person suitable to live in the environment of the day.

Education therefore is not a fixed format, like arithmetic, it is fluid, and needs to adapt to the ever changing world. We have not adapted, and so are still in at best the 20th century, where the 21st century has long surpassed what education means in a highly sophisticated, technological age, with internet, where all our youth are adept at using social media, and are not educated to use it to their advantage, let alone understand the revolution that they have been blessed with.

So i propose to redefine what education really means. It is simply a means arming the person with the tools necessary to survive in the environment of the day (present) and prepare him or herself to foresee the future, and make plans to adapt to the ever changing landscape, so that they can function in that time and place! (flexibiliy)

I meet 18 year olds on a daily basis coming to see me, with very sophisticated smart phones with short battery lives though, where i only have an old Nokia with all lettering rubbed off on its keyboard, but whose battery life still lasts longer than the apple i phone 6!

They want a job, but they cannot give me a resume with even their phone number and email address on it, for immediate contact! Today, the resume (cv) must have both, otherwise i will assume the person is not educated, even though the cv has a long list of computer qualifications. My challenge then is that you are not educated, as you don’t know how to get a job, as you have not been taught how to think. If you were taught how, you will realize that whoever you give your cv to, must be able to contact you for an interview asap.

If i cannot get through on a first ring, i may not call you again, as i will call the next person on my list for interviews and not try to get back to you. If i email you, i expect a reply within minutes, or at least by next morning at the latest, whether you are still interested or not! (if interested you must say you can come at a moment’s notice to be interviewed, to convince me that you are the right person for the job)

So this is what education means. This is what people lack, and this is what needs to be communicated effectively. “to repeat then, education means your ability to know what you want, know how to get it, and how to communicate effectively to get what you want.”

People mature at different ages, due to the economic environment and surroundings they live in, and so it is not at a particular age that one has reached one’s level of perceived educated status. I would like to however strive to give the tools needed by the state so that a boy or girl at age 16 is sufficiently well informed to make this lifestyle choice.

I strongly believe that it is at this age that “free stops”, and then it is either full or partial scholarships for the gifted, talented, economically deprived or differently abled, and payment for any further knowledge gathering, be it by way of loan, parental contribution, or work study program.

The state’s obligation is then quite clear. It is to “give one the tools of empowerment to make lifestyle choices, from which you fashion your future.”

All your expectations and demands from the state as a right stops right there. If the state so chooses, it can in the country’s interest offer incentives, which you may take. One such is that if you commit to work in a rural area, clearly defined for a period of 10 years, your medical education will be paid for by way of scholarship, the continuance of which depends on your performance at each year’s exams to get to the next level. It is the country that decides, to prioritize and incentivize depending on the policy that the country wishes to adopt.

If my formula is universally adopted, we can in time, eliminate unemployment, reduce job vacancies dramatically, ensure that our youth are in employment in a field of their choice, and the country can achieve its policy goals of development in industries deemed appropriate to them in their present level of development and resource allocation, and optimization for the benefit of all the countrymen. This is the only holistic way to look at education.

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