In simple terms, education means acquiring knowledge by learning. A critical question then remains: What is the purpose of the learning process, and when do we stop students and explain to them that education is a tool, not an end, and that it is a tool for personal development, attaining social mobility, and securing a comfortable future.
The most common thinking is that the person who secures more marks or gets more degrees is more educated; but isn’t education something different? Formal schooling makes some parents, guardians, scholars and even pupils and students to believe that good certificates one acquires in any academic discipline will make them rich and successful in life.
This is the common meaning of education in Africa, or atleast many people understand it this way. Of course, this motivated me to go to school every day even when I laid on my grass bed with a vacant stomach, watching the moon through the holes in our leaking roof—wondering whether I will ever make it.
Experience shows that this is very wrong perception. If all that we know about money, life and success, is what school taught us then we are really in big problems.
If certificates really matter that much then why are most teachers, professors and others professionals poor and keep on holding industrial actions (strikes) demanding for more pay?
Education should try to develop creativity of learners and to inspire relationships that gives life a meaning, purpose, wholeness and peace. It should develop each learner’s personality and talents to the fullest, inculcating moral values, positive thinking, and qualities that society values. This kind of education ensures that learners become good citizens of a country and most importantly, good human beings who can become successful in their life.
True education is beyond earning academic degrees, and it is more than cramming the knowledge in books. Hence, the result of learning should go beyond reproducing knowledge, to applying it in new contexts, to enable the learner to grow into a true human being. There will be little satisfaction in learning and achievement for most students as long as we have a system that makes schooling an age-group competition with winners and losers, and as long as we make extrinsic “rewards” such as grades, class rankings, and awards the focus of a student’s effort.
In today’s world, formal school may not matter a lot, but the 21st century skills—collaboration and teamwork, creativity and imagination, critical thinking and problem solving—are the most important for success and development.
This indeed is the true meaning of education and digital technologies have opened up fresh and exciting opportunities that facilitate the ability to learn, apply, unlearn, and relearn. True learning is about acquiring the skills, knowledge, and experiences that are helpful, and this does not necessarily require a classroom environment.
Through digital technologies, I see a great potential to impact learners/ students in various ways, keep them up to date with knowledge, and expose them to a community that help them develop the 21st century skills that are essential for today’s students. These technologies utilise the reach of the Internet to scale the resources of scarce, subject matter experts and extend education to new groups of learners. Teachers can interact with students and other instructors, while students are able to download extra materials, upload completed assignments, collaborate, among other things.
We do others and ourselves a great disservice when we don’t build up minds for success until we come to that point in life where we can boldly affirm that nothing on earth can stop us from being successful and rich , nothing!! Not even religion, not politics, not bad government, not bad economy, not even English (for English is just another language for communication but not a measure of one’s education or intelligence for that matter) but just our minds can! The earlier in life we get to that point the better—OUR MINDS CAN ONLY DETERMINE OUR SUCCESS.
Together with other like-minded educators and stakeholders, offering meaningful education that prepares students to live a meaningful and valuable life for the future should be possible, so that this can be a real game change for many students and communities.
What does education mean to you? Share your opinion and join the conversation on twitter: @serveUganda.