Is school overrated?

‘Education is what remains when one has forgotten what one has learnt at school’ – Albert Einstein

Today, I want to talk about education. Most people go to school to make good grades, so they can get good jobs with fat salaries, marry that fine girl (if you’re a guy), have kids, etc etc. Let’s face it: that’s why most of us bother with school in the first place. We put up with the cramming, endless note taking, lectures we hate, lecturers we hate even more and so on, simply because the world tells us that without higher education, without the ‘kpali’, we can’t be prosperous. If you don’t have a first degree, and these days a masters, the world says you are likely to be behind your peers.

Most people feel lost in the school system. In Nigeria for example, much of learning requires ‘cramming and pouring’ in exams, which benefits only a few students, frustrating the rest. You must regurgitate exactly what your lecturer spent pointless hours dictating to you, or you won’t do well. Very little room is given for innovation or creativity, turning most into perpetual job seekers who end up hating the jobs they get after a while, but can’t leave because of the steady pay check. The problems with our educational system go beyond the absence of desks and chairs, or the renumeration of lecturers, or even about the number of universities, even though these are grave. It is about a system that adds nothing at all to the nation, where ideas go to die. In developed countries, universities have been in the forefront of scientific advancement for centuries, and this must be replicated here if Nigeria will be on the path to greatness.

It isn’t all rosy elsewhere though. In the last 3 years across much of the developed world, this formula that says go to school, get a job, buy a house, send your kids to school and live on a pension has gone out the window. High unemployment, house prices in the toilet, jobs going to China, and rising college debt have caused more and more people to question the very foundation of the school system. Since 1978 in the US, inflation has gone up three times, healthcare costs six times, but education costs have gone up ten fold. American entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel says that this higher education bubble is driven by the notion that college education is the only way to get ahead, which leads many to incur a lot of debt to attain it, and universities keep raising tuition fees knowing that people will pay. Part of the reason for these high tuition costs are because of college rankings which Malcolm Gladwell calls ‘absurd’, while others like hedge fund manager James Altucher argue strenuously for children to be kept out of college altogether. In his book ‘Conspiracy of the Rich’, Robert Kiyosaki insists that the school system is ill equipped to perform what should be its main goal in the information age: to encourage people to think for themselves, and innovate, and choose how they want to be educated and by whom.

As user generated web content grows in volume, does it not make sense that education should also be user driven? After all, what good is school if you can’t use the knowledge in your chosen field? This might have been what made Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and many others give up school (not education) in order to become hugely successful. They must have figured out that the school system was not for them. So if you are reading this and your dream is to be an entrepreneur in whatever field, you are probably better off getting experience where it matters most: the real world. This is because there are likely to be several failures before a breakthrough (which is a main reason people prefer the steady paycheck in the first place), and the earlier a person fails, the earlier they are likely to succeed.

Obviously, owning a business is not for every one, but neither is school. Innovation is the order of the day all over the world and entrepreneurship is exploding. The school system, by and large, does not seem to be helping with this. Is school the problem rather than the solution? Have your say below.

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7 thoughts on “Is school overrated?”

  1. I feel the school system should be modified in such a way that those who impart (lecturers/teachers/tutors) are only people that can as much as possible have in mind that one student is different from his/her mate.

    Also, what’s the deal with one lecturer handling lectures for 100-final year students, as well as Masters students too? These people are humans o, composing syllabuses, marking scripts, taking lectures and all that takes a lot from the body; which is why I feel our higher institutions have quite a number of disgruntled lecturers (high pay notwithstanding).

  2. Great article, well,am a product of the examples in this articles,the educational system deteriorate everyday,but am glad that my results was finally approved after 3yrs of graduation. But those 3yrs have bn the most productive yrs of my life,acquiring skills and expertise in the field of my choice,and in few years to come,i will be the BILL GATES and MARK ZUGERBERG of my time, Thanks for d beautiful article.WELL DONE!!

  3. love this article,as much as i am doing well in uni,i feel like dropping out day-in ,day-out because i just know i am better off out there than in here but hey my country doesn’t afford me the possibilities i need to take such a bold step.So i am staying put .lol
    nice article..

  4. in the world where we live in, at least in naija, u need to have a formal education ( get a university degree) else u wont get far…. doesnt really matter how qualitative the education / training gotten is.. u need to have a “kapli”…. and then after graduation u then enter the school of life. the university degree gives some kind of validation and earns u some form of respect which cant be gotten any other way.

    I plan to start a company of my own someday but before then, i’ll still go ahead and get a master’s degree, not necessarily for the knowledge but cos because i need it to be a lil ahead of my peers. soon Bsc will be practically useless and the baseline will be a masters degree and i wont want to be left behind…its a bad idealogy but hey its a dog eat dog world out there and even politicians are acquiring/buying educational qualifications( doctorate degrees etc)… too much emphasis is still being laid on certificates…

    I totally relate with the “cramming and pouring” part cos i so totally crammed my way to my engineering degree.. and funny enough i havent seen a single application of any of those formulars and mind boggling equations we solved in school…

    In summary a uni degree is just a means to an end and in the society we live in ,your degree ( and school where it was obtained) gives u a good edge when starting out in the world. and then later on, ur personal skills and attributes as well as entreprenuerial skills, etc will have to come into play for u to thoroughly excel.

  5. good job, j.

    We are zombies in the university system. We do this, do that, cram this, cram that. You xerox the lecturer’s “handout” in your exam answer sheet and you are good to go. don’t understand what you read, just cram. buy the lecturer’s textbook (half of what’s inside is crap) and u get 30points…who does that??

    I taught at a school in Makurdi for 3 months and one day I asked the students what they wanted to be when they grow up. As expected, the kids went “doctor!”, “lawyer!!”, “banker!!!”…you get the picture. Then a little boy said he wants to be a “shit packer” and all the kids laughed at him. I went on to tell them the story of the DMT franchise. I told them: it’s not what you do, it’s how u do it. You will be appalled at the number of people who have missed their calling because their immediate society (and JAMB…let’s not forget JAMB) demanded they study law when all they wanted was to sing…or dance..or repair leaking pipes…

    (have a lot more i want to say, but…gotta run) all the best!! 🙂

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