Outdated Education

I remember my first business meeting in my first real job very clearly. As I had only started working for the company recently, I really didn’t know much about the business but I was eager to learn. So, what was the first thing I did? Well, first I tried to make myself as inconspicuous as possible. I’m mean, that survival skill worked for me at school, right? It’s one of the cardinal rules. Never, ever be different and stand out.

So, with a fresh sheet of paper in front of me, I carefully wrote the date in the top right hand corner of the page, and waited for the principal, I mean boss, to start talking. Can you tell where this is going? I walked out of that meeting shell shocked and overwhelmed with information. What just happened in there? I felt like it was the first day of school and I was the tiniest fish in the pond.

In the months that followed, I never questioned what management said and I did what I could to obey the rules. I mean, you wouldn’t dare cross a fellow student in a higher grade than you, right and heaven forbid you did anything but obey your teachers and the principal? What they said was obviously right because they are older than you. And, with age, comes respect, right? One day, when I’ve been working in the company for as long as they had, I too would have people who would listen to my instructions without any room to be challenged.

It made me think about what school actually prepares you for. As I try and wrap by head around writing a book about our road trip around South Africa, I have absolutely no idea where to start. I can write you a 1500 word essay on Robert Frost but I can’t get past the blinking cursor to start writing my own story.

Smile FM often has a talk show program on the radio at 10pm when I drive home from work where they interview people about various topics. A few nights ago they were talking about Matriculants who didn’t make it and how it’s not the end of the road for them. There are people who do well at school and people who struggle, but neither has any guarantee of success just because they can wave around a piece of paper.

Which made me wonder, why is “finishing school” held in front of us like this massive golden carrot. “When I finish school I will…”. It eventually becomes, “When I retire I will…”. What’s the point? Why!?

Some of the most successful people in today’s economy didn’t finish school. Why is there this big push towards their kids to finishing their schooling, like it’s the be all and end all of their problems?

So you make it through 12 years and have a National Senior Certificate to show for it. You and 600 000 other people in just that year. Now what? What makes you different? What makes you stand out?

I had the opportunity to work with a young woman who had literally just finished writing her Matric exams, before starting her first job. What an exceptional example of a mature, well rounded, teenager. But honestly for the first 4 weeks at work, she was clueless. Everything had to be spelled out because she literally had no idea how to get the job done. This is a child that excelled at school but she couldn’t compose a simple email. Don’t get me wrong, I would have been FAR worse than she was. I really admired her diligence and, by the time she left at the end of her 6 week stint, she was just starting to get the hang of things.

My question is this…what does school prepare you for? If school doesn’t turn you into a functional member of society then what, pray tell, is the point? You can write an essay on the works of Shakespeare? Awesome, that’s sure to come in handy at the next budget meeting! (Again, I love literature and I would happily read for the rest of my life but reading books all day, doesn’t pay the bills for the majority of us).

School would be far more worthwhile if it taught you how to write a letter of proposal, or how to start your own business, or how to prepare a presentation worthy of something that, even the judges of Shark Tank, would be willing to listen to.

In it’s current outdated format, school prepares you for nothing. At all. If it sounds like I have something against the content, you are missing the point. Obviously reading and writing together with Science, Technology, Economics and Maths (I think that’s what STEM stands for) prepares your child with the necessary tools to handle much of what life throws at them but honestly, that is only from an academic perspective. There is a mountain of skills that children need, in order to excel at life. Very few of which is taught at school. And that is a very big, very concerning problem!


  1. Tandy | Lavender and Lime

    February 16, 2017 at 9:28 am

    So much for life skills which is compulsory, if it doesn’t teach you exactly that!

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