Is it really about the “A”?

All school systems around the world are all competing to have the best education system, along with the most educated. Generally, this is interpreted through good performance, standardized testing, and grades. It’s in the smallest places of our lives, as even parents compare their kids’ grades to one another to show off just how smart and successful they are, that we see this competition. However, it is the reality that a lot of us don’t know what it means to be educated, or have a skewed perception. The definition varies from culture to culture. To some, it may mean being enrolled in school and to others it might be performing well in classes. However, we must look deeper into education to see what it truly means, as being educated does not always mean being enrolled in school. To be truly educated is to fully understand basic knowledge of all academic subject areas in addition to having cultural awareness to make further advancements in our global community. This includes all areas in addition to the traditional STEM subjects, such as being well-rounded in music, arts, and up to date as technology advances. We must understand as well as be aware in order to fully grasp the opportunities around us to learn.

Being educated in the classroom is more than knowing that you have to add 3 to both sides of the equation. This means to understand basic math, english, and science. Academic education is important because it helps us to better function and better communicate among others. If there wasn’t any formal education, then we would not have the skills needed to appreciate and learn more about culture. Although our education system today does give us basic skills, it does not allow us to become well rounded. We are drilled with different equations and methods, but we are never taught how to apply this to real world situations- other than Mary, who buys 16 watermelons. We’re never been taught to use these skills outside of our own necessity. Sitting down and doing problems in my math class, none of the claimed to be “real world connections” are relatable. No one needs to find the root of a graph which represents the number of melons bought. It’s frustrating, as I want to connect my learning to a bigger, global purpose. Different subject areas outside of STEM are not emphasized or even offered in all school systems, which are necessary to make a connection with people outside of our direct community. As in my own school, clubs which are centered around STEM subjects are extremely popular, whereas clubs which focus on service or cultural awareness are small or nonexistent.

How can we understand one’s condition of life if we do not understand another’s culture? Culture is most popularly defined through the music and arts- not how well they can read and write. If we look at citizens in Africa, more than 1 in 3 Africans are not literate, according to the African Library Project. Due to their inability to communicate with the rest of the world, they are not as exposed to medical and technological advancements. This puts them at a disadvantage, putting their life expectancy at 58 years without new findings of medicines and vaccines. This formal education we receive, which includes reading and writing for communication, along with math and science for advancements, helps people around the world to fulfill their basic human rights and needs which they are not available to. This is the global connection that schools need to be making when implementing these basic skills in their curriculum. Being academically educated is knowing the basic structures of sentences in different languages, knowing algebra, and using the scientific method. Although these basic skills are extremely important, schools do not show students how these skills can be used other than just getting the answer right. As I’ve taken my standardized tests every year to prove my worthy to this broken system, I learn that it’s all wrong. Completing the math portion, I knew what steps to complete, but didn’t know why I was doing it that way. How are we supposed to innovate techniques and adapt them to more personable situations if we memorize steps and not reasoning?

In order to be fully educated, we must not only receive a formal education, but a cultural one as well. We must have an open mind and be aware of more than just ourselves so that we can learn more about the world around us and help as well. We must learn about things we do not experience first hand in order to see the conditions in which other people live, and need to see what should keep us motivated to keep up formal education. Although it is important to be culturally informed, we still use information from our formal education to draw a connection between the two. Therefore, both are extremely important. It is vital to see what hardships are in the world in order to work to improve the quality of life for others. Being aware by getting this first hand cultural experience is what makes people think outside of the environment and culture we are used to living in.

One thing should be consistent- education should never be selfish. Education is a combination of academic and cultural appreciation, which not only results in improvements, but selflessness. I plan to take many trips after my college years, and in order to truly appreciate these once in a lifetime experiences, I must be knowledgeable about culture in addition to using skills from my formal education. We cannot waste the moments we have by not truly appreciating what we’re experiencing, especially because we’ll never live those moments again. We are constantly fighting to truly make the world a better place, and by following this idea of being truly educated, it is inevitable to have unanswered questions about the world and progress.