What Is The Real Purpose of School? – What School Fails To Teach You

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What school don't teach you - What is the really purpose of school

The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change. – Carl Rogers

 When I was in primary school I remember that I was a heavy reader; nothing very intellectual, just novels for children though. I would often read all day. I would also browse the dictionary or learn countries’ capitals and flags for no particular reason.

You must think that I loved school. Actually, not really. What I loved was learning, not school! When I was in high school I spent all my free time playing games online and working out. Sadly, I wasn’t reading books anymore and I wasn’t studying that much. I even repeated a year!

Ironically, it is only after I graduated high school and join university that my love for learning came back. Why? Probably because I wasn’t forced to study anymore. I could study for the sake of studying.

I believe that, intrinsically, we all have a desire to grow and to learn in some way or another, but, unfortunately, school, too often try to convey us knowledge rather than the love of learning.

In this article, I would like to share with you how I believe school should be and what should be its real mission. I think there are two main problems with the actual school system of most countries:

  • The way we learn at school is absolutely NOT in line with the way our brain is actually working, as neuroscience and empirical studies show us.
  • School is not teaching many fundamental things. School is teaching us a “set of knowledge” while it should give us in priority the love of learning that would enable us to keep acquiring more knowledge throughout our life.

At School We Are Learning and Forgetting

In many aspects, today’s school system is far from being adapted to children. Curriculums are way too heavy. Honestly, how much do you remember from school? Personally, I don’t remember much. Was what you learned really worth spending thousands of hours at school? It is arguable.

In reality, we know that our brain learns through repetition. John Medina is his book Brain Rules wrote that “people usually forget 90 percent of what they learn in a class within 30 days.” and most of the forgetting happens within the first few hours after class. I let you imagine how much children remember after a few years.

With the actual curriculum and the way it is taught, it is illusory to think that children can assimilate even a fraction of what they are learning. I’m not even talking about students in countries like Japan, Korea or China who go beyond the normal curriculum and for some, study until late at night, especially in exam periods. I might be wrong but I don’t think that students who spend nights and weekends studying more and more in cram schools in Japan or Korea are any smarter or more knowledgeable than student in western countries where cram schools are relatively minor.

As for the authorities, their main concern is to make sure that the curriculum contains all the historical events or literature classics deemed necessary to form “healthy” citizens; definitely not to ensure children’s well-being or instill them the love of learning. Is it what school is really about? I think it is time to have a serious discussion about the purpose of education.

I remember how my professors were so worried about covering the enitre curriculum even if it means rushing through it. In reality, the amount of knowledge we learnt at school is almost irrelevant. What is important is whether school instills us the love of learning or not. Seriously, how hard is it to go through all you learn in primary school once you reach adulthood? Isn’t it possible then to reduce primary school curriculum by half if we really wanted too? Would it mean that our children are less educated? I seriously doubt so.

Listening to some people, removing a chapter of a book from the curriculum would make our children stupid. I’m sure that even if we were to reduce the school curriculum to one third of what it is now, children would nevertheless learn more. Why? Because they would remember significantly more!

John Medina argues that, based on how our brain actually works, the best way for children to learn (and adults too) would be to have 25-minute modules repeated 3 times on the same day with 90 minutes between each of these modules. The content would be the same. In order to cover all the program, the school year would be extended into the summer. Every third or fourth day would be reserved to review what have been learned in the previous 72 to 96 hours. Homework would probably disappear.

In addition to that, crucial pieces of information would be repeated every year or every 6 months to ensure that children understand and remember key information.

What School Don’t Teach Us

I believe there are important topics that should be taught to our children, but that, unfortunately, are totally absent from the curriculum. I believe that what we need to equip our children with is the proper mindset to live a fulfilling life, not so much with knowledge. One of the reason we don’t teach those things to our children is simply because most of us don’t even know about them!

Children Should Learn How Their Mind Works

Wouldn’t you like your children to learn about how his mind works and how to use it to stay healthy and happy?

Nobody taught us how our mind works at school and that’s why our mind is quite a mess. People have almost no understanding about how their mind works and are controlled by patterns of negative thoughts they are not even aware of. When we know that our thoughts are governing our life, we understand that for our society to evolve toward a more conscious and caring society, a massive change in people’s self-awareness and awareness about their environment will have to happen in the future. Understanding how our mind works is the first step toward that revolution.

The shocking reality is that many of our mental and physical sufferings are self-inflicted. We create our own sickness! Not people or situations. You are free to have whatever thoughts you want. The more you will understand how your thoughts determine your life, the more you will choose your thoughts carefully. Many depressions and other sicknesses could be avoided if only we had a better understand of how our mind works. Actually, if people were to understand how their mind works, pharmaceutical companies would see their profits drop sharply.

Most of us know how to deal with a cold, or a physical injury but how many of us know how to deal with emotional pain? Do you know how to deal with your thoughts when you are experiencing rejection, feeling lonely or ruminating? Guy Winch in his book Emotional First Aid provides us with effective tools to deal with emotional pain.

If you could choose, wouldn’t you like your children to learn how to tone down their negative self-talk and have more self-love? Isn’t it parents and teachers responsibility to teach children how to take care of their mental health? Here are some points we might want our children to learn about:

  • How beliefs are created and how they can be changed
  • What are limiting beliefs and where do they come from
  • How what you believe greatly shape your life
  • How you can change your brain through neuroplasticity (see Ted Talk The Woman Who Changed Her Brain)
  • Negative self-talk and its consequences
  • The fact that thoughts are not reality. There is no need to react to thoughts or believe them
  • Ways to deal with emotional pain and prevent them from getting worse

Children Should Learn About Happiness

Wouldn’t you like your children to learn about happiness? Sorry, but apparently it is not considered important enough to be studied at school! After all, who cares about being happy? It’s more important to learn all the historical dates of an obscure battle that I’m sure will be useful for the rest of your children’s life.

My conviction is that happiness is not something to be earned but something to be learnt. If you look closer, you will realize that in your daily life you sometimes go from a neutral state to a happier state of mind for no particular reason. The opposite is also true. The level of happiness we experience in our life is the result of how much we are able to feel grateful for being alive. Happiness is a state of mind that needs to be cultivated. Why not start cultivating that happiness as early as possible?

Children Should Learn How To Meditate

In today’s world, everything is going faster and faster, long books become short e-books and messages are replaced by tweets. Distractions are everywhere and it becomes harder and harder for people to stay focus on the task at hand. Studies show that multi-tasking is a myth and that to be fully productive people must be able to focus on one single task for long enough to complete it. In such an environment, having children experiencing meditation at school would be highly beneficial. Even a few minutes a day would have great benefits. (See Is Meditation for Everyone?)

Check here  some benefits of meditation. Meditating would also be a great opportunity for children to experience how their mind works by observing the relentless coming and going of their thoughts.

Children Should Learn Psychology

In addition to what I mention previously, I believe that children should further learn about their mind by studying psychology. For instance, people largely underestimate the power of situations. Who knows what kind of atrocities you would commit under certain circumstances. We wrongly believe that we are mentally stronger that we really are but it’s a lie. People need to realize that. (see You Are Weaker Than You Think – 3 Famous Psychological Experiments Show You Why)

Can you say for sure that during the World War II you would never have collaborated with Nazis? Can you say with 100% confidence that you would never have mistreated black people during the slavery era in the US?

It is certainly true that we should learn from history, but to understand major events like Hitler’s rise to power, the rise of Capitalism or the failure of Communism, I believe that what we must study in priority is human psychology. We must understand how weak we can become under certain circumstances in order to reduce the odds that similar events happen again in the future. By focusing too much on learning historical dates we easily get lost in details completely missing the big picture and key elements or lessons to be remembered.

Children Should Learn About Money

Money might not bring you happiness but not having money is often a source of unhappiness. Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to invest their money. Failing to save your money and to invest it wisely might put you in serious trouble. We all dream of financial freedom for ourselves and for our children. That’s why we should give our children all the tools necessary to help them deal with money effectively. In reality, even people with modest incomes can accumulate quite an impressive amount of money if they do 3 simple things:

  • Start investing their money as soon as they begin to work
  • Take the time to learn the fundamentals about investment
  • Have a little discipline

It is all the more important for students to learn about investment that, the early they start investing, the easier it will be for them to accumulate wealth (due to the compound effect). Of course, students should be explained in detail what are the risk involved and traps to be avoided so that they can make the right choice once they start earning money. (See Myth #3 – Mutual Fund – Are You Investing Your Money Wisely?)

You can check here how much you need to save depending on your current age if you want to reach $1,000,000 when you reach 65.

Children Should Learn How To Listen

You might wonder why children should learn to listen; we all know how to listen, don’t we?

How many times have you heard your wife telling you: “You are not listening!”

How often do you truly give the gift of attention and unconditional listening to someone? What does it mean to really listen to someone? Below are a few elements to consider for better listening:

  • Not judging what someone is saying but putting ourselves in their shoes
  • Resisting the urge to interrupt your interlocutor
  • Not thinking about what you are going to say next
  • Not getting lost in your thoughts
  • Listening beyond the words: what the person’s body language is telling you?
  • Being self-aware: are you tensed? Are you relaxed? Is your body/mind reacting to something your interlocutor is telling you? Why? Are you listening objectively or are you interpreting what the person is telling you?

Active listening requires practice and is a skill. Listening is an important componet of coaching and for a reason. It is only by truly listening to someone and making the effort to understand their situation that you can actually help them. Listening is also a very powerful tool during negotiations (See William Uri’s Ted Talk The Power of Listening). Things like meditation and mindfulness are good ways to learn how to be more present and listen more attentively.

There is a lot more to be said about education but I will stop there. Most of things I mentioned in this article are not taught in school because most adults don’t realize how important they are. I dream of a day where all those things will be taught to children. I dream of a day where children will leave school with

  • The love of learning
  • The ability to take care of their physical and mental health
  • The ability to manage their money effectively
  • The ability to communicate effectively

What about you? What do you wish you learnt at school? What would you like your children to learn at school?

Share your thoughts with me in the comment section below.

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