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Misconception, misunderstanding and mistrust in education

During the last 10 years I have observed a huge cultural difference in relation to education and its place in two parts of the world: India and the Western Europe. Whilst in India education is seen as a vehicle for the evolution of the individual and of society, in the western world, the younger generation feels oppressed by it. Romania is a special case, since we are in the Eastern Europe, and hasn’t yet recovered from 45 years of communism, so here we have a blend of everything.

First of all, most of us don’t understand the meaning of the term holistically, and are usually only thinking about formal education: traditional school However, education starts in the first years of our lives, se soon as we begin to imitate our parent’s behaviour, language, or reactions. We learn how to talk, how to walk, how to eat and how to clean our bodies. We learn how to relate to other children or to the adults we meet. In life, actually nothing is taken for granted. As individuals, we are a product of a combination of our genetic make-up, the natural and social environment we live in and our education. Media is itself a means of education. We already know from theory that education has three forms: formal (the school), non-formal (continuous education, other educational institutions) and informal or incidental (any source at all, such as family, friends, media).

The pandemic has endangered educational attainment in the last two years. Online school has been successful in some cases, but there are multiple situations when access to internet and online devices is not possible because of poverty and lack of infrastructure.  And yes, this also happens in Romania!

In the meantime, alternatives to formal education have flourished, such as home-schooling. Whilst not and invention of the pandemic, it certainly provided a useful solution during this time.

Looking at the younger generation and specifically at teenagers, as they already must make choices that affect their entire lives their sceptical view of school is somewhat surprising.

To quote a few answers, they believe the school to have both a positive and negative impact on their lives, they think the school puts too much stress on memorizing and on getting grades instead of creating and developing skills and competences, that many information learnt is useless later in life. Competition is making them feel very pressured and they feel that actually there are no equal chances.

In this case, what is to be done?

The system of formal education in some countries such as Romania is outdated. Perhaps technology is not enough involved or newer methods of teaching and critical thinking are not applied sufficiently. Moreover, the syllabuses are not adapted to the immediate needs of the younger generation and makes learning difficult. The system here has many other problems, such as the underpaying of teachers (to have an image, in 1999, the salary of a teacher was 28 dollars/month) and political involvement in the management. Furthermore, the media promoted a negative image of teachers, misinforming the audience leading to widespread misunderstanding of the process of becoming a teacher. The tenure exam is impossibly difficult, and consists of memory tests that require complete knowledge of all subjects studied all years in the faculty to be mastered at the highest level with complete knowledge of the bibliography. Moreover, all government institutions in Romania require a memory test for hiring staff and this sometimes requires laws to be memorized, instead of allowing for consultation and understanding of them. However, without education many competences wouldn’t exist and we would not manage to survive. Memorisation, whilst cursed by so many adults and adolescents, can be an instrument for improving memory. Learning a musical instrument helps delay the symptoms of diseases like Alzheimer.

I come from a generation that never ever asked „why do I need to learn that?”. We were just doing what we were asked to and somehow, tried later in life to use  all the knowledge, information and skills we had developed in the best way we could. We were a generation for whom learning all night was fun! We were learning things in the same way old ladies gather all kind of objects …..just in case. And the cases appeared and this just opened more doors and opportunities for some of us in life.

I find though, that pressure created by competition can be damaging to self-confidence and emotional health of the younger generation. However, before blaming an imperfect education system,  we should also examine the atmosphere in the families of the young people to examine whether the pressure might come from this direction. 

Society is changing but we are unaware that we are the change. Some of us are not aware of the beautiful things they create in this world and of the impact of their work upon the people around them and thus upon the society. Because each person can, at some point, influence a number of other people, and in this way the knowledge or a vision are spreading.

But with this awareness, comes responsibility. Most people are taught to learn something in order to get a job. Entrepreneurial spirit is missing and many times, those who start a business are mistrusted, especially in the countries of the former communist block. A risk-free life is not possible and  it is not possible for all troubles to vanish. Obstacles and burdens are part of life and one should not try to avoid them with any cost.

We all want to achieve success in life. But what is success? Money? A great position in a company? Many followers on Instagram? Some articles which present us in a favourable light? How can one achieve success? What are the goals, and once they have been achieved, what is next? As an artist and as a musician, being successful is most of the time, translated into the reaction of the audience, of the critics, or in the numbers of contracts. But who actually knows the truth and nothing but the truth about a performance than the artist himself? (Well, if he/she has enough knowledge to make a right judgement). In my opinion, success doesn’t exist. For me, satisfaction comes from a job well done and this satisfaction doesn’t last for long, because all the time there are new chapters to begin, new projects to be done. One cannot live on the memory of a beautiful thing, but needs to create these new things all the time, each of them with their own story, amount of work and length of life.

I spent a lot of time describing how education can bring professional success, but where is the balance? How do we learn to cohabitate and to create connections and what is the most important thing in life? Some will say it is health, others that it is family and others  personal development, becoming the best version of yourself. Well, whatever we consider to be important, that thing is also influenced or even generated by our education, formal or informal. Many adults live with trauma from the past, some from early childhood and some of them transfer these traumas to their children or partners. But, at the same time, there are people who learn to break the chains and to stop this epidemic of negativity.

Despite the image created by some in the media, I trust the young generation knows how to value their education and their knowledge. Many of them have discretion and can make serious and good choices.

Every society has a certain structure, and in our times, structures change. But for each piece of this construction there are people needed to fill the positions, the right places. We all depend on each other and there is no profession that is good or bad, but it has to be right. It must be practiced with passion by people who are good in doing it and who have the talent to do it.  The employment market doesn’t have only doctor and engineer positions or economist and lawyer. As I have already, entrepreneurship is to be encouraged, although just opening a business that sales anything will not bring clients and good profit. One needs to offer a good quality product, and that can be made only with talent and dedication.  

For this, the education process needs to involve an important resource: creativity. Culture and arts are the elements that make us human beings and differentiate us from the rest of the animal realm. Otherwise, whatever we have, they have too: types of organisations, families, communities, homes, feelings and their own ethics. But creativity is human, is a gift from God! It is applicable in all the domains of activity, even in science, with different approach.

Trying to conclude, education is a complex reality and a phenomenon that has no end.  Individuals always have the chance to improve certain domains of their lives (of course, I am talking about normal conditions, conditions of peace and access to livelihood, to the means of support.). With all its forms, it is a chance for the human beings to transcend. But we, the educators, must be very careful which values to insert into the consciousness of the younger generation. Love and compassion, in my opinion, can’t be taught, but they can be learnt. For this the young people need to have from whom to learn. Whatever we are, whatever we manifest with sincerity, that is the future of the society.

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