Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Rant about Education

Update from 24, Sep, 2018: I've been reading through my old posts recently, and this one stood out as one of the most obnoxious one. Past me made some points, but those points were based on the very limited knowledge that I had at the time. As a principle I don't change my past blogposts, but I decided that I had to add something here and there to tone down the dreadfulness. Also, past me? Don't be so harsh. It doesn't change anything.
Comment 15th Aug, 2017: I have no idea why I took down this post. I have no idea of how this'll turn out on your feed either, but voila, a ranty post I wrote in my prime years of my life last year of high school.
(I probably churned out this post on a bad study day. Yeah, nice one, Melody.)

I appreciate our current education system. We have rather cheap tuition fee, we don't have to learn brainwashing patriotic shit anymore (okay maybe there's still some), and students have much more freedom than those thirty years ago (we can actually keep our long hair! and wear black socks! yay!) I appreciate all of these, and so much more.

But (of course there's a but. you know there will be one. or more. and there's going to be but's from people and but's from me. that's unintentionally taking a weird turn. mmmuuh back to the seriousness) there are also a lot of problems. Today I'm just going to rant about one, because, well scroll down and see. One is enough for me to babble on all night.

What problem? 

Too many subjects, too little time, and no necessity for them.

(Let the rant commence.)

We have primary school and middle school (or junior high school, which is not only wordy but also confusing) as compulsory education for children aging [with ages ranging] from 7 to 15, where we have to learn basic Maths, English, Chinese, Sciences, History, Geography and Social Studies. Let's not discuss whether quadratic equations is suitable for every student. (though i do enjoy my quadratic equations). After 9 years of education, I'd say that those knowledge is quite sufficient for a normal citizen. That's why students can go wild and choose what they want to learn afterwards. So there are vocational schools, where students learn really professional skills like fixing machines, design, fashion, culinary arts, etc., which sound really cool; also there are language schools and art schools, (which sound awesome as well.) (update from 2018: actually those vocational schools have also evolved to become pretty exam-orientated. turns out the grass isn't really greener on the other side, eh?)

And, there's high school.

In high schools, students go academic. However, instead of focusing on subjects we want to study in university, we have to learn EVERYTHING. Whatever those adults like to say about the tininess or the incapability of the brains of my generation, high school workload is enormous. We still have to study every. freaking. subject to the finest details for the first 2 years, and we don't get to choose any until our senior year, not to mention the choices are so limited. There are three sets of meals courses to choose from:
Required for everyone--Chinese, English, Maths, plus
a) History, Geography and Social Studies, or
b) Physics and Chemistry, or
c) Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

After the year, we'll be off to university.

people's but's v. my but's (don't you dare laugh) (laugh all you want. that title is horrendous)

What you learn in the first 2 years of high school is just the basics and is essential for future learning!

No, those should already have been covered in primary school and middle school. We don't have to do it again, with even more unnecessary details. What we need to learn now are the academic aspects of the subjects we're going to work for in the future. I don't need to know every Chinese poet and the stories about their mid-life crises when I want to study physics in the future. (or any of their sob stories about how they lost their job and became either a pariah or an alcoholic.)

We're training you to think broadly and helping you integrate and organise! And time management!

Knowing and mixing different knowledge is great, but I think it's rather reasonable to let students who've already stayed in school for like nine years to decide if they want to add in some spices here and there? For a lot of students, it only distracts them and takes up the time where they can hone the skills they want. Plus, why study a subject you have no interest nor much competence in (having known the basics of it already)? I'd much prefer spending my time on a few subjects that I love to get better, or even excellent at it, instead of being average with all the subjects.

There are people who can do it, so you must be able to do it too! Stop whinging and get on with it!

I applaud for those who have finished high school with flying colours in every subject, because that really is amazing. But we aren't all that versatile, and sometimes 3 years of multi-tasking just isn't going to work out for everybody.

There are people who are interested in ALL of the subjects!

Again, applause kudos to those amazing human beings. This is one that I can relate to, to some extent. I have interest in languages and science, and because of the system at school, I can only choose one. In order to learn languages one needs to know the historical background and social impacts, while in this system you can only choose either humanities or sciences. I'm not saying that we should just shove people into either one of these categories. If you love all the subjects, bravo, go ahead, you. What I'm saying is that the current system isn't really friendly to other people. Some people have the capability to do all of them, but I'm speaking from another perspective, which a lot of my classmates agree with.

Education is not really about learning all the things, it's a process of sorting out who's good enough to continue on to the next level, and, eventually, qualify themselves and prove their abilities.

This first came to me when I was listening to the Hello Internet podcast (which is, regardless, immensely enjoyable) as a view on education proposed by one of the podcasters that used to be a teacher. I think this explains a lot of things--we'll forget what we learn at school at some point of our lives, but through the process it defines us, our capacity to meet school and social standards, to follow the rules and to prove that we're capable of doing so--so our employer have a bigger chance of hiring us. That diploma doesn't really mean we've learnt all the knowledge; what it really means is we've successfully gone through this hell! Congratulations! Now that you proved yourself, off you go, find another prestigious hell and live with it! Yay!

This argument ties in with the second one: it's not really about the knowledge, it's something else. And damn, it does makes [sic] sense to me at first. But then my thoughts regenerated like the Doctor with a new TARDIS. (okay, not the TARDIS part.) This is quite a pessimistic thought, but what I really feel about it is passive. Sure, maybe it's true if you don't know what you're doing all through high school. But for those who have a purpose, it's really about aiming for what they love and honing the skills to reach it. Instead of those thinking them as trials to test people and have them prove themselves, why not use it as a tool to help people find a goal and achieve it? (look at me in the past. so optimistic.)


I'm not saying that we should dump our first language literature and maths, because they're life-long demons companions, and they always come in handy. And I think we should learn the basics of everything. I'm suggesting that there should be more flexibility as to the way we learn, instead of uniform curriculum for everyone. Or, I don't know, maybe let us actually choose some of the subjects? Maybe? Seriously, government, if you love Confucius so much, listen to him for once, let students learn in accordance with their aptitude.

Note that all my arguments are built on the condition that the basics of every subjects are already learnt. Basics are important, no matter what. You don't have to know the details of the tax system hundreds of years ago, but you mustn't not know who'd once occupied our country and what impact they'd left. You don't have to know how to calculate the loci of parabolas if you're not going into a career that needs it, but at least (in my opinion, of course) you need to know the idea of a square root; something like that.

How's the education in your country (assuming you live in another country)? Is there anything that you feel that needs to be changed? How do you deal with it? To what extent do you think students should learn about all the subjects? Anything you'd like to add? Anything you disagree? Feel free to comment!

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