Did school prepare you for life?

It’s interesting to think about how school was designed to prepare us for life ahead as adults, as working, economically productive individuals. But has it really?

Most adults agree that they don’t use most of what they’ve learned in school, be it calculus, geography, or history. In fact, most of them have already forgotten 80% of what they’ve learned in school. What then is the purpose of school, and what should we look for in our further education? What skills should we have learned that are relevant in the workplace today?

Many bosses seem to agree that creativity and critical thinking skills are of primary importance in the workplace today. After all, knowledge and information is practically free these days online, and almost everyone has access to Google. It’s the ability to sort out knowledge and information that is valued in the workplace today. It’s the ability to work out different solutions to the myriad of challenges businesses face that no-one has the answers to right now. Businesses need creativity to create novel solutions that amplify output and minimise downside risks. Businesses need critical thinking skills to figure out which information can be used effectively to generate profits and save on costs. Do you have both?

According to educational expert Sir Ken Robinson (who was knighted by the Queen of England for his contributions to education), schools end up killing creativity instead of encouraging it. In this TED Talk below, which is one of the most widely viewed on TED.com, he talks about how the public education system of most countries is no longer suited to today’s environment.

What then have we learned from school? The original concept of an education was to understand a variety of topics including literature, history, the natural sciences, and languages so as to identify trends and patterns from which true learning, invention, and progress can flourish.

The systems of public education that most countries have in place were designed for the industrial revolution. Students are produced in batches to conform to a certain way of thinking, that was necessary to fuel the machines that greatly increased output in the day. Having similar experiences then limits students today to the framework with which school has left an impact: that all students agree on one way of problem solving, one way of thinking, and one ideology… that which is supplied by the government in its regulation of education.

How then can we overcome this even as we look toward learning and equipping ourselves for the future? While most degrees equip students with professional know how, such as law, engineering, or accountancy, make sure you remember that your field of studies should include a broad range of topics, particularly those with many answers such as history or literature or culture, to broaden your experience of life, and encourage the synthesis of ideas across disciplines to create a new and exciting future. If Steve Jobs didn’t attend his calligraphy class, we might not have fonts in our computers today. If food and beverage business owners didn’t think about using GPS and taxis, we wouldn’t have Uber or Grab, companies that have disrupted the economy and made travel easier and cheaper for us.

Last but not least, remember that the secret to power in anything you do, is the ability to communicate clearly and effectively. Use your lessons in college to practice expressing your ideas, challenging assumptions, and thinking out of that proverbial box. Alternatively, look for mentors in these fields of creativity, communication, and critical thinking who can guide you towards the success that you desire. Only then, will you truly be equipped for the 21st Century.

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