Learning for a better life

I love education, almost everything about it, however, I don’t like the meritocracy of education and I feel for people marginalised by the educational system. There is something wrong with the way we see education, with wealth and qualifications seeming to take centre stage in defining a person’s value.

Think differently!

Perhaps it’s time to challenge these perceptions and at least attempt to view things differently. What if we viewed education as a continuum rather than a destination?

Education doesn’t stop throughout life, the question that we face is what we do with the information that comes into our lives and where and how we get it? The questions we tend to ask ourselves are ‘will this qualification accelerate my career?’ ‘Will it improve my credibility?’ ‘Will it help me to earn more?’

We tend not to ask ‘how will this help me live a better life?’ Just to be clear, I’m not saying that having more money is a bad thing and promotions tend to be good and credibility a definite advantage. Rather, seeing education in a philosophical way.

75 year study

One of Harvard’s most famous studies on the ‘Secret of Happiness’, reviewed the lives 268 mentally and physically well men who graduated between the years 1939–1944. It was run in tandem with another study of 456 disadvantaged youths from 1940 to 1945. This 75 year plus study recorded all aspects of the lives of both groups. A more detailed description of the study can be viewed here;


There were many factors that contributed to their wellbeing, but the consistent and defining factor that resulted in an improved life was the relationship they had with their partner. The conclusion gives us a sense of the importance of forming the right relationships professionally and personally.

Institutes can do better

How do our schools, universities and workplaces help us to form the right relationships for improved wellbeing?

They often do not. It could be argued that many of these institutions including workplaces are environments unwilling or ill prepared to teach people the practical skills of forming better relationships. Education has a powerful role to play in changing this.

Curriculum design, delivery and educational platforms can all be adjusted to accommodate life skills that improve wellbeing. People will always need to collaborate at school, university and the workplace but often do not reflect on the quality of these collaborations. The skill of self-reflection is so useful in life and so often overlooked in education. Imagine the social skills school leavers could employ if empathy was more encoded into the curriculum.

Seizing any opportunity

I believe the way forward is to use any learning you may undertake as a reason to improve skills in self-awareness and improving relationships. It may be an opportunity to present to a large audience, or the chance to develop debating skills, all things that may not be advertised as part of your learning but which add so much value. In 2017 and beyond the skills highly sort by organisations include the ability to galvanise communities. Energy and forming connections are winning attributes and they are teachable providing motivation is present.

Until educational institutions and workplaces have their moment of realisation, learning for a better life may be a choice for you to make. I believe that’ is a great challenge for anyone to take on.


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