School is useless; education is invaluable. There is a difference between being educated and having gone to school, which may not seem all that obvious. Although we go to school to get an education, it appears that our education system is incompetent at meaningfully educating us. The reason I say this is because while we are being schooled, what we are being ‘educated’ about is seemingly useless. For example, instead of being educated about things that will help us be better equipped to deal with life’s unpredictable challenges, instead, we are fed useless information about subjects that will not help us live more effective and fulfilling lives in the long run. Likewise, it is a little known fact that most of the things we learn throughout our academic career, including higher education, we will seldom use once we leave school and enter the world of work. Of course, there are some useful exceptions such as numeracy and literacy skills. Yet, I’d argue that the majority of professions do not require proficiency in certain subjects beforehand, with exception to careers such as medicine etc. and even then, the link between the theory and practical work can often be tenuous. This is because the majority of the time they will teach you everything you need to know, through ‘on the job’ training, to help you carry out your duties effectively. Moreover, most of the time, whether you get employed or not, hinges upon your other core traits such as enthusiasm, autonomy and hardworking, since the company is going to train you anyway.
Therefore, if this is the case, why waste time studying a degree that is not going to help you do your job? My hypothesis is that, although education helps you gain invaluable skills like being literate and numerate, it is however nothing more than another means of social stratification. In this sense, schooling helps our socioeconomic paradigm separate people into groups based on their academic achievements. It is a means to an end in enforcing a class system. Thus, after education, the job market will allocate economic agents into different sectors, based on their performance in education. Those who struggled will be implicitly told ‘you are not good enough’ therefore they are only granted access to menial jobs paying minimum wages. Meanwhile, those that did very well are able to get prestigious jobs and earn copious amounts of money. The repercussions of this is that, many diversely talented people will be made feel incompetent because they did not excel at society’s universal measurement for intelligence; school. Yet, this is wrong as intelligence is a versatile and multifaceted thing and measuring it in this acute manner ignores the other aspects of it and the consequences are that many people with versatile forms of intelligence will not be given a chance to realise or pursue their talents.
Contrary to popular belief, I do not believe that getting better grades than someone necessarily translates to being smarter than that person. This is because our schools essentially try to produce the person who devotes their life to academia, the professor. Moreover, there are many forms of intelligence, yet our schools mainly focus on an aspect, which measures how good someone is at absorbing information and then regurgitating that information when they are called upon to do so, in exams. In this sense, we somewhat programme ourselves to restrict our thinking and to just learn tons of information for the mere purposes of passing exams and nothing beyond that. For example, personally throughout sixth form there are subjects that I excelled at in the exams, yet if you quiz me about those subjects now, I am no better than someone who has not studied the subject as I have long forgotten them as their usefulness in my mind had run its course. Indeed, this is because in our minds, once the exams are done with, we allow ourselves to forget this information as their usefulness has diminished.
In Ha-Joon Chang’s 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism he argues that, there is little empirical evidence supporting the view that better educated nations enjoy higher levels of economic prosperity. Chang argues that the relationship between higher education attainment and economic prosperity is tenuous. Instead, he renders that it is not indeed the level or quality of schooling that makes the significant difference in how much our economies benefit from our school systems, instead, he says; “what really matters in determination of national prosperity is not the education levels of individuals but the nation’s ability to organise individuals into enterprises with high productivity.” If this is the case, it therefore means that, the schooling of the people is not particularly significant, in its place, it is the institutions that those who are leaving the education system and entering the world of work are surrounded by that make the sizeable difference in a country’s prosperity. The view that institutions matter to economic growth is one widely accepted amongst the world of economics and it is usually the difference between a good and a bad institution, which propels an economy to growth or condemns it to failure. Therefore, this view further evinces that, in the grand scheme of our economic performances, our schooling systems do little to enhance or further our growth interests as the relationship between higher economic performance and higher education standards still remain fragile. In light of this, Switzerland is therefore a good example to illustrate the point that higher education attainment, does not lead to economic prosperity, as their university enrolment levels are lower than most, yet they remain amongst the biggest economies globally.
In conclusion, if we look at the usefulness of schooling from an economic perspective it appears to be somewhat negligible, as they do not help us increase productivity or gain the crucial skills that makes us more employable. Empirical data also shows no positive correlation between rising educational attainment and the rate of growth of productivity per worker. Moreover, it can be argued that our education system is also not teaching us the relevant skills, because of this, this could be the reason why it is difficult to align educational attainment and economic performance as our educational institutions are not teaching the masses the skills that will be relevant in the work place. For example, personally I know a few people who have good degrees from respected institutions yet; they are jobless or working below their intellectual station. This evinces how the current education system can fail even those who flourish within it, when it comes to gaining employment. Therefore, this is why gaining work experience and doing more outside academia is now widely encouraged as people now know that school will do little for you after you have reached the end of your studies. Thus, I maintain the position that our current schooling methods and syllabus is useless. Instead, we should educate the coming generations with a view to the bigger picture by using more relevant subjects that will help them excel in life’s challenges and help them gain skills that increases their employability. Shifting to a better vocational based curriculum whereby people are actively learning transferable skills and not only just ‘living in their heads’ could do this. This will also mean that schools will play a larger role in our economies as well as helping encourage creativity and making students more employable upon leaving school. Yet, we would have to be careful as to not make the youth concentrate on one trade too early, but rather give them a range of skills and after they come of age, they can then choose what they wish to concentrate on.
Chang, Ha-Joon. 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism. London: Penguin, 2010.