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Our Dubai Toastmasters club had witnessed last month a heated debate session moderated by DTM, Past DTC President, Past International TMI President, Col. Mohammad Murad. The topic was “For or Against Formal Education?”, or as put by the moderator: (Most of the formal education is a complete waste of time). . Apart from the fact that we were stunned and so much in awe of the performance of our guru orators, that everyone requested for the debate to be extended for couple more rounds, but the topic itself is a very controversial one. I rarely attend mothers’ gatherings and the topic of education system and schools doesn’t top the list of talks. I strongly agree with the main point emphasized by the Against Formal Education team, which is many world icons who had shaped our world into a better place, were school dropouts. Take Steve Jobs and Richard Branson for example. But again, as the other team rightfully argued those are the rare cases on which we cannot build our conclusions on.
My take on this is that learning is natural, the sense of wonder is an instinct, play and joyful discoveries is their way of making sense of the world. The schools should be the medium that nurtures these values and adds knowledge, problem solving skills, and sense of community among other values. If the school doesn’t teach children how to love their world (and fellow humans) and appreciate its beauty, if it doesn’t cultivate their capacity to further discover it, be part of its brighter future, and defend its values,if they are not learning to appreciate. If they are instead losing their sense of wonder, then it is just another routine we do passively or another investment into the pockets of some businessmen that we take passively. The educational system is like any other system, most probably needs to go into cycles and spirals of tweaking and improvements before we can say we have a near-perfect product. Add to this the challenge that we live in a rocket-speed changing world and our children need to be adequately equipped to be engaged in, let alone survive in.
Few parents have concluded that the formal education system in its current format is not sufficient and doesn’t meet their expectations. They chose to go for home schooling. But how many parents can afford to go for this option, and what is the guarantee that it will be a better alternative? And how can they compensate for the absence of the community element, or learning within a big group?
I do agree that formal education, in its current status quo, has drawbacks. I still find official scoring and testing system a terrible thing. But I don’t think that the solution is to abolish the whole thing. I think that the parents do their best choosing the right environment, do their homework at home by being the good examples for their children, and be mindful of the missing parts and try to comprehend it on a separate effort, with extra-curricular activities for example.
And yet, the biggest school is life, and we are all lifelong students if we keep our natural passion and curiosity to learn its lessons!
Note: I wrote this article for The Orator, Dubai Toastmasters Club’s magazine, Issue #3 2016/2017