I had been meaning to take up the ‘proverbial’ pen for many days, but today something struck me that really made me want to say this

What’s the idea behind Education? What should education be about?

Too many times I have seen students (at all levels of education) chase grades to achieve excellence. The ‘what if I fail’ thought drives people to extremes. Learning and understanding goes down the drain and, mugging and memorizing takes it’s place. And finally what do you get? A piece of paper with nothing inside YOU to back it’s claim. So what have we gained?

Education is your time to be free to explore, to invent and to dream. Spend your free time dreaming, coming up with elaborate ideas to use things taught in school. Explore the fields that interest you, add in details through the various means (internet, libraries, people) available. Take the time to apply the concepts and ideas learnt in school in real life, and that will help to concretize your knowledge and understanding of the world. The aim is not to absorb everything you get, but to concretize and internalize some part of it.

Going even further, I think there’s a difference to be made between ‘knowledge’ and ‘understanding’.. With all the resources available to everyone these says thanks to the internet, just knowledge is not enough. Anyone can learn a programming language in a few days, or learn to use a software tool in a few hours. It doesn’t take a genius but just someone who knows how to search Stackoverflow and Youtube. But someone who truly understands the fundamentals of a programming language, software tool, design methodology, etc and then can work his/her way up to the actual usage and implementation can really deliver much more effective, creative, elegant work.

I don’t mean to say that everyone has to understand everything they use from the fundamentals (well, if you do, then you’re truly awesome and I bow to thee), but at least the concepts, tools, techniques which are critical and center of your fields of study and/or work should be something you should definitely have an understanding of at a deeper level.

The world of tomorrow doesn’t need more factor manufactured graduates who are able to solve complex mathematical problems or design the exact same piece of work as the next person, but still can’t explain where and how it can be used in real life. We need people who can solve real life problems, create useful and practical things with the tools and techniques picked up during education. A deep understanding can lead to a elegant and effective application.

So what of grades. Like TheWheat used to say in the old days, “Ignore them, grades don’t matter”.