Sir Richard Branson has written something about education reform that I think is interesting but which I have some reservations about and I will explain.
I have no credentials as an educator. In fact, if someone were to have me teach their children, they would be committing an error. I am not particularly talented in teaching and I am not a patient guy. With that out of the way, we can now look at the article by Branson and see what we agree with and what we think doubtful.
First, everyone, or rather most people agree that we need some education reform. What these reforms are or should be is the matter of debate and will remain so as long we live. Quotation from his article will be indented.
I was never good at maths – the maths they teach in school anyway. Some people excel at trigonometry, calculus, or algebra and I wholeheartedly applaud those who do, and put their knowledge to good use in ways that make our lives easier. But we shouldn’t be excluding the vast majority of kids from learning practical life skills they need to succeed.
Is this to mean math is excluding majority of kids? Or do I misunderstand him. My principal in high school said we all had to pass math or at least have a fair understanding of it since we would need in in almost every facet of our lives. And Neil would say math is the language of nature. But if the good Sir uses math as an example, maybe we can have that debate. But not yet.
Learning about things like interest rates, how mortgages and loans work, and how much money is coming and going out is essential. For most of us, this is the real, everyday maths you need to know – core life skills that will benefit any child leaving school. So, I am all for teaching maths, but it’s the applied maths that will make all the difference when you’re working out a budget, want to buy a home, or start a business. And I hear that there is far too little of that.
And here is my first point of disagreement. To learn applied math, one need know the basics. Two, there are people who are born and die without taking a loan- financial exclusion among other causes- or not needing a mortgage and this is the majority, at least in the global south. This child who is going to need a mortgage must first learn basic math then understanding compound interest is a walk in the park. It will be easier to explain to them if they can repay their mortgage in a shorter period, their interest payments will be lower but they will have higher monthly or quarterly payments depending on their contract with the financier.
Some may be visual learners; some may prefer words – but we need to include every single child and we need to teach things that will actually be useful.
While this partly true, that is, we need learning to be inclusive, it is not always possible to tell what will or will not be important to a person when they grow up. Limiting education just because we think it’s not important is also what leads to fear of mechanization. Some of the people employed in these sectors would find it hard to learn new things as their education was limited. Give people a broad education.
We try and make everyone fit into the same box, and people aren’t built that way. We’re all so different, and that should be celebrated. The way children are taught and set up for life really needs an overhaul so that they can leave school and pursue their dreams – and have the skills they need to make them a reality.
This is indeed a good point. But I should point out is that as long as education is to be provided to the masses, there is no better way to do it. Standardized tests could be used to help parents, learners and teachers identify what paths a student would be best suited. Economies should grow large enough for everyone to get a something they like that makes it possible to make a living. And most people find their dreams in the classroom. They discover they can be teachers, astronauts, medics, or basketballers while in school. Maybe it is not the failure of the school but rather the whole system that kills dreams.
The world of work is changing so rapidly, and children who leave school without these skills will be left behind. We need dreamers, problem-solvers, and entrepreneurs to solve the big problems of our time – let’s set th
I agree totally. We need people who will think deeply about the challenges or the unintended consequences of chatGPT. How do we respond to a world where human knowledge has expanded but understanding has dwarfed?
In my view, we need to reform mass education. Most of it produce conformers. People who are good at doing particular tasks, but only that. Our education should encourage curiosity. It should force us to question strongly held assumptions. It should be rigorous. And it must expose us to divergent views. There cannot be sacred topics at the academy.
Sir Richard might have good ideas, but I think they are not fully thought out. Or he limited his thinking on math alone which again doesn’t represent the whole education sector or the desired areas for reform. Or maybe I misunderstood him and he is right. Only teach applied math.