Does the Best Education Happen Outside the Classroom?

Julian Spiteri
3 min readNov 11, 2018

We must learn the best way to learn

School might be where your formal education ends, but it shouldn’t be the place where learning does. As Socrates put it, “I know one thing; that I know nothing”. Although the word ‘education’ typically brings to mind sitting behind a desk, the very definition of the word is ‘an enlightening experience’, which I would argue more often than not happen outside the classroom.

The most important thing to keep in mind when discussing education, and more importantly learning, is the individual, or in this case the student. Very often, schools adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to instruction and classroom culture. For students, this means the loss of creative, flexible differentiation — instruction tailored to each child’s social, emotional, and academic needs. Such a system often ignores the fact that different people are more receptive when thought in different way. Some students listen best while sitting perfectly still, others are actually their most focused while bouncing on a cushion or standing. Insisting that all children sit in the exact same manner only sets the stage for unnecessary reminders that exhaust both the teacher and her students.

However, when properly executed, traditional classroom education is an extremely powerful tool. Not many possess the cognitive ability and will power to be capable of self-educating, and in practice, there is a clear correlation between formal education and intelligence, especially when it comes to literacy and numeracy. Although there are many other important factors when examining the intelligence of an individual, I believe it is difficult for one to seek further knowledge without having at least a basic understanding of literacy and numeracy. They are foundational to successful living, learning and participating in today’s society.

That being said, literacy and numeracy alone are not adequate. These must be reinforced with other, less fundamental skills, which either cannot be learnt in a classroom, or otherwise in my opinion should be learnt through personal experience. One of these skills is conversation. Failure to engage in conversation with others in order to gain experience could result in one’s personal communication skills are being hindered. The broader outcome could be social isolation, arrested social development, and not learning from the common lot of other’s experiences and mistakes who are their age and older, which could stifle a person in various ways and potentially become a barrier to rewarding careers and the full enjoyment of relationships. Knowing how to connect with others, being empathetic, when to speak and when to listen, is of great value in the workplace and in interpersonal relationships. To learn the art of conversation is to actually do it, with peers and other varied and diverse people.

Practical thinking skills are also not often acquired through classroom education. Education is generally pragmatic, wherein the educators test students on specific data, and as such students will learn the specific data just for the test, often by rote memorisation. Too often, then, students are not taught how to think through to solutions; even in math, formulas are memorised and the numbers plugged-in to the formula without an understanding of the formula’s formation and what it is solving for, and what are real scenarios it’s applicable to. The best way to improve choice making is in fact to make choices, and be exposed to the positive and negative consequences of these choices.

Traditional education and informal learning work hand in hand. By helping young people apply their knowledge across a range of challenges, learning outside the classroom builds bridges between theory and reality, schools and communities, young people and their futures. Balance in life is essential, and this holds true for knowledge acquisition, skill learning, and most importantly the building of values.