As an educationalist, I am a great believer in ‘knowledge for all’!
Knowledge is like an open vessel that never fills or overflows, you can always learn, always enquire, question and challenge. Having access to knowledge is very much driven by the individual – but unfortunately it still remains exclusive within the framework of education to those who are privileged enough or motivated enough to embrace it.
After teaching for over 16 years I have begun to realise that here in the UK we take education for granted. We have access to all of these opportunities, a framework to study and develop from an early age. We are given the tools and techniques to become individuals and the flexibility to make informed choices. When you look at the education systems around the world and particularly education for girls we are damn lucky to live in the society that we do.
So what is a proper education you might ask? For most it extends from infant, primary and secondary school with possible pathways into further and higher education? You could be a scholar for some of your teenage years or for all of your grown up years.
I remember when I was at school that I wasn’t particularly gifted, I got by came out with reasonable qualifications, GCSEs and A Levels and that to me was my starting block. The subjects that I was taught and the curriculum that I followed, most of which I have forgotten – (yes I still remember cloud formations and Shakespeare, some of my chemical symbols from the Periodic Table) ….. But what I remember most are my teachers. The correlation between the subjects that I did well in and the teachers who delivered those subjects are perfectly matched. Even at the age I am today I still remember the traits and personalities of my teachers, more than the lessons I was being taught in some cases.
A proper education within the framework of an institution does not work however if the educator cannot inspire or engage or think outside of the box and question, what box? Education is such a challenge for all, and the dilemma of inspiring the hearts and minds of children and young adults is very easy to say, but in reality difficult to deliver.
I remember when I was at school, studying my GCSEs I was told by a teacher that I would never amount to much and why bother applying to do A Levels. If it wasn’t for that teacher I don’t think I would be where I am today…. proving them wrong!
What sort of society do we live in, where we cannot even see what drives a person, what fills them with passion and makes their eyes sparkle and their minds ignite? Do we even care anymore? As long as they come through the treadmill of education with a piece of paper that validates that they know x, y, z at a required level is that it, what about p, q and r? Is that our duty of obligation in terms of imparting knowledge done?
For those of you reading this and thinking yes, I would just like to take you by the shoulders and shake you …….. No! An education and knowledge is not just about core curriculum topics, repetition, exams and assessments, it is not about listening to somebody standing at the front of a class talking at you and it is certainly not about a piece of paper. I agree that pieces of paper open doors for you. This is society conforming to …. So many qualifications at a certain level, gives a measurable amount of competency.
You know what; some of the most well qualified people I know are completely inept …. Yes they can recite molecular structures, impress with formulas and equations, discuss theories and apply logic, but do you know what if I tried to engage them in conversation about what’s happening in the Middle East, or their opinion about environmental issues or the ethics of child labour they would struggle.
Some of the most intellectual spirited and worldly people that I know do not fit in or conform to what is classed as a ‘proper education’ they left school with nothing and have become something!
So what is a proper education – does such a thing exist, as individuals we all take different pathways to learning. For me, it’s about knowing the basics, but continually learning, forever filling that open vessel with more knowledge.
Leaving school with no or very few qualifications does not make you a failure. Not getting a string of A* grades does not make you any less of a person. For whatever reason education may have passed you by. Disengaged by the whole institutional framework does not put you in a box labelled, under-achiever! It puts you in a box with a lid, waiting for someone or something to open it and release what is hidden. An educator may not have discovered that, but that is not an excuse to stop learning.
Learning and having the ability to read and write and understand is a gift that allows you to explore. Open up your mind to new things and find out what is happening in the world.
You do not need a piece of paper to validate who you are, you need to have the strength and ambition to make yourself into the person you want to be. Do not let other people tell you are a failure, that you will not achieve and give up!
Because of that one teacher, I have battled my way through the educational system to get where I am. However, that hasn’t made me the person that I am today because pieces of paper cannot do that. My proper education has come from me and the belief that you can do anything you want and be anybody that you want to be ….. Have some faith in yourself and not what others tell you.
Learn, develop, observe, question ….. Whatever inspires you, start filling that vessel because knowledge has no boundaries and does not discriminate. It is not an exclusive club; anybody can join and reap the benefits.
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