Is Formal Education A Mistake?

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It seems a lot of people are questioning the effect of formal education on their lives. Virtually every book I read these days is focused on the need to restructure the educational system and promote self-education (in the West especially United States).

I agree that this is the Information Age henceĀ  there is an abundance of information at our disposal however in a developing country like Nigeria, how do you access/critically analyse this information without formal education? How do you seek out answers from books at home, library or Internet without formal education?

Formal education is very important. It is a ticket to our future. Without it, we rely on easier and faster sources for information like television, printed materials, experts, or hearsay from immediate contacts, friends or relatives to save us the time to self-learn, think and analyse.

It must be said that formal education doesn’t guarantee anyone financial success but it removes the scales of ignorance from one’s eyes and makes your thinking mind to explore and seek several answers. As a consequence, it is a ticket out of miserable circumstances for many; a solution to our backwardness.

Nigerians (like the guy I watched on television recently) who claim formal education is nothing, I am curious to know why they think so. And what helped you to form this opinion? I need to know if they’d be opinionated or able to reason the way they do now if they had no formal education. Formal education gives you a certain level of exposure and thence the will to chase self-education and become an autodidact.

“Autodidacts are the self learners who quench their hungry and inquisitive minds by self learning and finding answers to their questions themselves” – Maaher Sayeed

The problem with our formal education is that we are/were all taught to be status- and result-oriented. Most people believe formal education is all about amassing certificates and titles whilst bragging about them to anyone who cares to listen.

The truth is that what really matters is the transferable and non-transferable skills you pick up. Don’t miscontrue my point, I am not saying having a good grade/result is bad. No! Nevertheless, due to the keeness to have titles attached to our name, cram-la-pour has become a ritual. This is beneficial in the interim but useless in the long run.

“Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting.” – Edmund Burke

Also, many go to school and focus solely onĀ  academics or social life and when they are thrown out in the real world, they realise their inadequacies and deficiencies. There’s definitely a reason why the Igbo word for a University is “Mahadum” but I prefer to call it “Marahadum” which literally means know them all. The best advice you can give to a student going into school is to allow the school pass through him/her as s/he passes through the school. That way, s/he would be equipped with formal, non-formal and informal education.

I concur that there are certain things you can’t learn in a classroom because experiences shape up our lives. However, in this third world country, you need formal education to ditch crowd mentality, hearsays and blindly conforming to borrowed wisdom, and base your opinions on balanced and educated thinking. As a consequence, formal education paves the way for self-education.

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Poles and Notions

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It is quite astonishing how quick we, as a people, are to pick sides when something happens. Nigerians and sentiments are like yin-yang. Inseparable!

When news reports trickled in about the arrest of former Petroleum minister, Dieziani Allison-Madueke in the UK for allegedly laundering $13bn, two groups suddenly emerged. Those in her support were assembled in the blue corner whilst those against her were in the red corner.

Those in the red corner desperately want to see Diezani jailed and thence celebrated her arrest, without asking questions how the media came to that figure of $16bn. The opposition, in the blue corner, described Diezani as innocent until proven guilty and slammed the President’s anti-corruption war as mere noise used to harass and persecute his political enemies.

This is based on their belief that the President has surrounded himself with chronically corrupt citizens like Rotimi Amaechi et al. Perhaps they are right about Amaechi et al but if they feel Dieziani deserves time until UK court proves her innocence/guilt, why can’t they extend such benevolence to the likes of Amaechi etc? After all, everyone has a right to a fair trial. Or maybe not!

Some days later, there was a fight between new Super Eagles handler Sunday Oliseh and veteran goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama which led to the latter announcing his retirement from the national team. As expected, Nigerians, without waiting to get to the root of the matter, were split again into two sides with both teams hurling insults at each other.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having an opinion and taking sides but the least one can do is to be objective about it and back up your claims with facts, not assertions. Objectivity was lost during the aforementioned debates, and replaced by bias. Being objective is a herculean task for many due to the amount of bias we carry around.

It will amaze you how bias, especially what we hear others say, can sway our judgements and decisions. For example, if you were told that someone is good or bad at something, it would be hard for you to forget that information when you observe the person and in the process, miss other vital positive/negative traits of the person. Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson wrote in his new book LEADING, “It is astonishing how many biases and preconceived notions we carry around, and these influence what we see, or more precisely, what we think we see.”

Subjective thinking is based on an individual’s emotions, opinion and perspective hence it comes easily and naturally to everyone however objective thinking doesn’t. It is a skill that is acquired and developed by paying good attention to details. Just as kids develop vital personal and social skills by observing behaviour of their parents, siblings, peers or teachers, that’s the same way one needs to be a keen observer to think objectively.

Objectivity is based on facts and observations. It is a very important skill to acquire because it stops one from making hasty conclusions by taking a step back from one’s own thinking to critically examine facts/opinions/assertions at his/her disposal.

It also requires one to look at things from other people’s point of view hence one has to be willing to give a fair hearing to what others have to say. No matter how right your opinion may seem to you, a single perspective never reveals the whole truth.

Observing and listening are underrated activities, and they cost nothing. Follow arguments with objectivity, not bias.