There Is More Than One Way to Be Educated

I had a terrific opportunity to work with teenagers (secondary school students) on developing personal effectiveness. It was always a conversation. That way we all learned from one another. We talked about self-awareness, leadership, personal growth, career choices, life opportunities and planning.  Also, they got to ask any questions no matter how silly. If anyone walked by, it might seem as though we were just hanging out. However, those pockets of time were impactful, for them and for me as well. It was great fun.

It was during this time that I entertained this rather brilliant train of thoughts. I’m aware that most parents insist that their children go through the complete education route – from primary to tertiary levels. If you ask, the reason is that they want their kids ‘educated’. The emphasis makes you wonder how it is that we have all somehow agreed that there is only one way to be educated – sitting behind a desk for 6-3-3-4 years, writing tests and exams and collecting a certificate at the end of it all.

I was impressed by many of my students. I recall a young girl of 17 who had developed a business plan. You could tell she had given it much thought. She said she was going through the whole WAEC and university degree motion to please her mom. She wanted to start a catering business. She knew who her target market was. She had come up with innovative ways to produce, distribute and market her imagined products. Unfortunately, she would have to wait until after her degree before she could touch that plan.

What a waste of time. What if she spent a focused time of those 3 years of senior secondary school and 4 years of university learning, training, preparing for success in this business? She could combine formal learning with her interests in varying degrees. The point is her education would be effective. At the end of all that time, she will be equipped with the relevant and necessary skills for a successful future.

If you bother to ask young adults today, if they are being honest, they don’t feel very educated after spending all that time. Apprenticeship is some form of education. So is any type of focused training. At the end of it, you have proof of education which is the skill you have acquired and can demonstrate. I’d wager that those types of graduates are more educated than our certificate carrying ones.

So I have a suggestion that will solve this problem once and for all. Since parents are more interested in the certificates than in the actual learning experienced by their wards, with which they are rightly equipped to immediately solve problems in their communities and social groups, I say let’s give them certificates.

Let entrepreneurship, art, technical, vocational, tech trainings be all certified from the secondary education level to the tertiary level. So let’s grade them based on the number of years they put in: certificate, diploma, degree. This way, everyone is happy. Parents have certificates to show for the school fees they pay and the time their children spend in school and the students have the opportunity to learn and acquire skills they consider necessary for their personal development.

Problem solved.

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