My education has been quite extensive; built on these three pillars:
- University degrees (3 of them from two different universities)
- Countless courses at technical centers
- Lots of reading on my own
By far the most valuable of the three was the reading I did on my own time and based on my interests and ambitions. It’s what enabled me to build my own business and learn the skills needed to succeed. The rest of the aptitudes I got from my upbringing and people I met along the way.
I largely agree with Bryan Caplan’s view that formal education is mostly signalling. This is the view that school doesn’t so much teach you valuable skills, but helps filter society by which people are smart, conscientious and conformist enough to put up with it. This filtering can explain why schools seem to teach so much useless stuff, yet are nonetheless a requirement for almost any good job.
This way of thinking does not apply to all professions, however. There are several professions such as law and medicine where it would be foolish to think that you can study on your own and attain anywhere close to the knowledge that actually going to university would give you. What I disagree with is society’s relentless push for all young students to go to University as if not going would be a failure in itself. There are only a limited number of courses available at university and an infinite amount of human aptitudes and talents, so if young students feel that no course suits them they should seriously consider skipping University.
I’ve personally had mixed experiences at universities. I don’t consider my experience at the University of Malta to have helped much in helping me build my character or way of thinking, and the skills learned there could have been easily learned online. I had to go through many boring lectures and just study information that was utterly outdated and useless just to be able to regurgitate it on the exam paper and get my pass.
At the University of Loughborough however, I had a wonderful experience. I didn’t find my course especially interesting, although it was more professionally done than what I had experienced in Malta. Facilities were much better in general at the computer department where I studied.
However, the biggest difference between the two for me was the actual campus and how students behaved on it. In Malta, almost all students live with their parents and go to University by car or bus to attend a lecture, then just go back home. You get very little interaction with people beyond actually going to classes or hanging around on campus. Sports facilities were dismal and clubs were very few. In Loughborough, on the other hand, you had a multicultural environment, countless clubs and societies for any hobby or interest imaginable, an incredible campus with some of the top sports facilities in Europe, and even a Students’ Union which included various discotheques/clubs that opened daily. Then there were several canteens with good food (unlike the horrible one we had in Malta).
Add to that the fact that most students actually lived on campus or nearby, eliminating the daily commute (I went to university by bike every day), so you got to actually live and interact with other peers 24/7. This resulted in a much better experience for me as I had the opportunity to get to know people from different countries, religions, interests, genders etc etc. It helped me grow immensely in that one year, especially considering that it was my first experience living away from my parents and having to figure out the practical things like cooking, shopping, washing on my own.
I would definitely repeat my experience at Loughborough University, but I would skip the University of Malta. That is not a direct critique at the Maltese university or the lecturers there; just that I had drastically different experiences as described above.
Therefore, while getting a degree at university can be a great experience, in my opinion, the greatest benefit is that of interacting with other students and great lecturers and actually living on campus, rather than learning the course material itself. I would argue that for many people the course materials are better learned on their own time using a MOOC system or other ways. That would make that portion of the education more customizable, less boring, and way more efficient in terms of time needed to complete it.
Universities waste resources by teaching the same courses over and over again, when they should be pooling resources to create basic, big-budget lectures with Hollywood-level production standards. Check out Tyler Cowen’s YouTube videos on Economics, for example, and I bet it easily beats the drudgery that it taught in most schools and universities.
What school teaches:
– How to wait in lines
– Absolute authority
– Outdated subjects
– Following the rules
What they should teach:
– Personal finance
– Developing mental models
– Critical thinking
– That there are no rules
— Dan Held (@danheld) November 28, 2020
Online courses shouldn’t be a passive experience. They should be active and social. Using platforms like Zoom, students can feel close to their teachers, chat with other students 1-on-1, and get instant feedback — all within a 90-minute session. Over time, online education will be more scalable and more intimate than most in-person learning experiences.
One other key thing is that learning is a social experience. You can’t just download information. You have to wrestle with ideas and make them your own.
To conclude, here’s a video illustrating Alan Watts’ thoughts on the education system:
On the other hand, I do want to emphasise that I strongly believe in the value of education; the doubts I have are only about traditional, formal education.
There are others who are not that keen on education in general, and we hear a lot of stories of high school dropouts that went on to become millionaires or even billionaires.
There is a potential chance that you will earn far more from investing in the stock market, real estate, and gold. From a financial point of view, education doesn’t seem to be the safest investment. However, education can certainly bring a lot to personal development when done right.
Education instills confidence in people. It helps them stand on their own feet and have confidence in their skills and abilities. Not to mention the fact that a good education also opens up a plethora of job opportunities.
You may think that earning money by investing in shares, gold, or real estate is easy. But you can never fully be sure about what returns you’re going to get. On the other hand, an investment in education comes with guaranteed results. The money you invest in good education is seldom worthless.
Support During Recessions
When the economy is in recession, unemployment is rampant. Luckily, people with a good education can utilize their skills and are thus more likely to keep their jobs. Educated individuals contribute more to economic growth because of their skills. Investing in education can keep you secure even during rough times and is hence very important.
Education has no limitations
There is nothing that can be termed as the perfect age for investment in education. This means that you can invest in your education at any point in your life, age doesn’t matter! Psychological experts believe that your brain is capable of learning new skills regardless of age. While you can always learn a new thing, you may face extra difficulty with some tasks. But that shouldn’t deter you from getting an education.
Education also opens doors to self-assessment and leads to personal growth. When a person opens themselves to learning new skills, they get to meet new people and explore the world through a different point of view, which can lead to a lot of personal growth. What you achieve is strongly related to how much you believe in yourself. Education fuels self-confidence. Education helps break barriers and explore limits.
Shaping the next generation
By investing in your education, you are not only doing yourself a favor but are also helping future generations. If you’re well educated, it’s likely that your children will be too. Also, educated people are more knowledgeable about how to raise children. According to research, a child whose mother can read is 5% more likely to live over the age of five years. This is just one of the numerous ways your education can benefit the next generation.
Education as an investment in business
It is extremely tough to start a business and invest in it. How an entrepreneur decides to start and invest in a business can differ from person to person. Investing in your own skills is one of the fastest ways to help your business grow. If you have a good education, it can help you explore different ideas to grow your business. Getting an education alongside running a business can be an exhausting task for entrepreneurs, but it can definitely bring excellent results for a business.
Education also contributes to the economic growth of a country. It enriches people by helping them understand themselves and their surroundings. Research has also shown that a rise in education is positively correlated to a rise in GDP. Education not only pushes individuals to improve their lives, but it also makes them more productive employees and hence raises output levels in the country.
Educated individuals are more likely to be civilized than uneducated individuals. Through education, you can learn the values, beliefs, and norms within society. Thus, education teaches you the unspoken rules of society. If a person doesn’t invest in education, there’s a chance they may not be socialized properly. If you don’t know the norms of society, you may indulge in unacceptable behavior and may get shunned from some parts of society. Hence, education is extremely important when it comes to teaching people about acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
Remote Schooling and Other Homeschooling Variants
Remote schooling, home schooing, unschooling and other variants are all growing popularity, although they are hampered some countries making them illegal.
If you’re interested in remote schooing, take a look at Wollsey Hall Oxford, I’ve heard good things about this school.
The Impact of AI on Education
I believe that schooling will become vastly more customised due to advances in AI in the very near future, and this could alter our concept of education completely.
Educated individuals are the heart and soul of a prosperous and productive society. If you want to have a bright future for yourself and your family, investing in your education is vital. Just make sure you are clever in how you go about it and don’t rely only on formal education.