When a child asks, why must I go to school? the answer would most typically be to learn, you go to school to learn, to get an education. The terms learning and education are constantly thrown hand in hand, but I think we need to ask ourselves if they are if fact, rather different things.
If the child persists with the questions the answers begin to take the path of ‘It is important for you to be educated if you are to get a good job’. The underlying message in these answers is that without a good education you will not get a good paying job and therefore your quality of life will be less. You will be unable to buy materialistic earthly things, which the society, that you have now complied to, demands that you have.
Education would more accurately be defined as a period of societal programming.
In other terms we go to school to be shaped and moulded into other creature of society. Learning, if defined as something done naturally and freely from the day we are born, has a very small role in our education.
The modern education system, which we see run today, is in many ways ancient, modelled off the French education system coined by Napoleon at the end of the revolution. The system was centralised in order to unify the French, one language, one thought process. Napoleon said “Above all we must secure unity: we must be able to cast a whole generation in the same mould” I find it scary that this is the ideology which our education system has grown from. Although these ideas are not potent today, it is the undercurrent of our education structure.
The term education is in need of redefining, Education is no longer the process of learning or about the desire to learn. It has become about jumping though the loops of society so we may slot into place. The enjoyment and excitement of learning has been replaced with ambition for high marks and stress of a good future. Students pick subjects, which will scale higher in their ATAR over subjects, which speak to their hearts. Success and progression are based on examination results rather than on the belief in the importance of universal learning.
From my own experiences in year 12, especially these last few month, I was taught to answer a question the way the markers would want to read it, my time was not to be given to learning new things but to learning how to write the things I already knew, exactly the way the markers wanted.
HSC students are given words from a rubric, which we should use; We are given sample answers to mimic and structures and criteria which we must strive be able to slot next to.
Those of us who excel in the HSC System are those whom best understand how to spit out what the markers want
It is not about how well we learn, but how well we learn compared to other.
This is not a reflection on the teachers, as I am heartily thankful for all they have taught me, but rather on tradition and the structure of education system.
How is this defined as learning? How is this a positive and fair judgement of intelligence?
To an extend it is imperative that we try hard and jump though the loops that society demands from us, finish year 12 so we can have a high school certificate and an ATAR, get a university degree so we can be respected in our chosen field of expertise. As the terribly great leader Adolf Hitler has shown us, you have to work with the rules in order the change them.
I just want you to think about when it is time to stop jumping though these loops, as there is a danger in doing this for the rest of our lives, because it is rewarding and if I can say so easier.
My speech today does not aim to belittle or dam education or the teachers in this school; in fact I am a firm believer in the importance of learning and the danger of ignorance. I just want it to serve as a reminder to my peers, myself and those following us into the HSC, that when you get the results from your exams, regardless of what number they have given you, remember all that you have learnt. Remember that your rank in the education system does not define your ability to learn. Look back on your kindergarten brain and its understanding of the world, and compare it to your understanding now. No number should be able to take away the fact that you have learnt an immense amount of things.
Mark twain notes “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” I think this is an important thought to go into the exams with, let none of us permit our: school marks, grade and rank against others, interfere with the pride we can find in our acclimated knowledge, intelligence and a desire and hope for our future.