What is education?

‘Quoted’ conversation

A few days ago, I had a discussion with my wife about where quotes come from. An innocuous enough topic turned into a profound analysis of what is education. My wife subscribes to a weekly online newsletter of an author; quotes was a topic in one of the newsletters. She read a paragraph aloud to me, a humorous narrative of the author’s quest to authenticate a quote by Aristotle. Disappointingly, it appeared that the quote was not part of Aristotle’s writings at all.

With easy access to the Internet, we are bombarded with information. We are especially generous about using ‘quotes’ from famous people in our writing. Be it blog articles, social media posts, emails, reports, or any piece of writing. Our sources arise from a cursory internet search, and we attribute the quote accordingly.

The truth is that the internet has millions of quotes attributed to millions of people – living or dead. You can find them in all shapes and sizes, on multiple websites. When you dig deeper to find the exact primary source of the quote, it is a Herculean task, to say the least.

Following this conversation, I remembered one of my favourite quotes by Albert Einstein. This led me to introspect deeply about what education is.

‘Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.’

Albert Einstein

Now, I admit I have not authenticated the primary source of this quote. My thoughts ran in a different direction.

Pondering on the purpose of schooling

I began to think about what really remains after one has forgotten everything learned at school. These are my thoughts on what education is all about.

Education outcome 1 – Mathematical reasoning

We might forget the problems solved by our Maths and Science textbooks. But we remember the approach to problem solving. The ability to navigate through problems is the learning outcome here. The method may be systematic and meticulous or simply brute force. We forget the formulae of finding the average or mean or LCM. But we apply the logic of these rules subconsciously.

Education outcome 2 – Linguistic ability

Surprisingly, most of us do not forget the basics of reading and writing. We do forget a lot of grammar, though. We do not forget the communication skills that come with a good reading habit. We might not be great authors, but we imbibe the logic of learning a new language. We may not be noted poets, but we learn to be poetic in life. The appreciation for a beautiful piece of literature lingers on.

Education outcome 3 – Imagination

We learn the art of drawing from an incredibly young age. We put in laborious hours tracing, copying, and drawing diagrams for various purposes. We might all not turn out to be great artists, but we all have an imaginative mind. Some of us have grown to become gifted artists, and most of us have retained the art of imagination.

Education outcome 4 – Innovation

We might not remember the minute details of the hands-on projects in our Science and Art classes. But we have retained the ability to put our creative minds together to brainstorm and create something new. The rise of entrepreneurship is proof that innovation lives on and thrives in every aspect of our lives.

Education outcome 5 – Negotiation

We might not remember how much time we spent playing when we were supposed to do homework. We certainly invented the most bizarre reasons for not submitting homework on time. We did persuade our friends to do something for us – let me be the first to bat, you come over to my house to study. All these instances have taught us negotiation skills. Some are better at this than others, but we all learnt this when we were in school. This skill has helped a lot of us stay on top of the food chain too.

Education outcome 6 – Introspection

Undoubtedly the most challenging of all our combined learning outcomes is introspection. Although this lesson and process continues throughout our lives, it begins at school. Punishment or the lack of it, appreciation or the lack of it, academic success, or the lack of it – all these have eventually led us to introspect about our lives at various stages.

Education outcome 7 – Love for Environment

We may have forgotten the intricate details of Biology lessons but the love for life and environment have remained with us. This love has different forms of expression with different people, some explicit and many implicit. It is also true that a lot of us pollute the environment and show the least concern. However, at some point in our lives, we will get back to the fundamental duty of protecting our environment. This is the sense of responsibility we have subconsciously learnt at school.

Education outcome 8 – Appreciation of talent

The exciting atmosphere of our school annual days – the diversity of opportunities, the long rehearsals, the enormous enjoyment, the culmination of everything on stage. They have all taught us to recognise and appreciate talent within ourselves and in others. They have also taught us to enjoy the process as much as the outcome. This lesson goes a long way in appreciating life itself.

Summing up

The thought process behind the quote is only known to the author. We all can interpret it in our own ways. This is my interpretation. What is yours? Please share your thoughts.

I have written earlier too about my pondering on education. Read them here, here, and here.

Featured image credits: Arek Socha from Pixabay

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Sriraghavan S M

Sriraghavan (Raghu) is an Astronomer by qualification (MSc, Astronomy, Bangalore University) and a teacher by passion. He is a trained counsellor and psychotherapist. His firm belief and conviction to transform the education system in India led him to be an entrepreneur through NumberNagar®. His core work at NumberNagar® revolves around product presentations, academic content, and training. He teaches Maths and Science to young students, rubbing off his passion to them. He trains teachers as well, inspiring them to better themselves. He has taught Physics in educational institutes, during his early career days. He has travelled extensively all over Karnataka, training teachers and popularising Astronomy. He advocates multiple intelligence and is constantly on the lookout for new things to learn. He is ambidextrous and enjoys sketching. He was an avid cricket player in his younger days. He is an enthusiastic biker and uses long solo motorcycle rides as means of reflection and rejuvenation.

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