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I remember some years ago I was talking to some young men on the subject of education. Their line of argument about what is education and what being educated meant to them has never left my mind. At the time, I did not know how to explain to them that they had it all wrong, but as the memory came back to me recently, I decided to write briefly about it.
Now let us start with some of what the young men said. Apparently, anyone who attends/attended university or college to get degrees, are considered to be educated and smart. These educated people are the ones who are being managers, doctors, teachers, office workers, among others. They continued by saying that persons who did not go to university are not educated even if they finished high school and are skilled in certain fields. They also said that the ‘uneducated’ people are the ones who are unemployed and who end up being poor and involved in crime and violence in the fight for survival. In response, I mumbled something about the fact that I have a university degree did not make me more educated than someone who is a trained electrician, for example, because I have no clue about the workings in that field of work. However, at the end of the conversation, they held on to their beliefs about who is educated and what is education.
What really is education?
I found a few definitions of ‘education’ on the internet and I will share them with you.
- the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.
- a course of education
- teaching, schooling, coaching, training, preparation, guidance, enlightenment, development, improvement
- an enlightening experience
If I had known these definitions then, they could have helped me to explain the true meaning of education. And to strengthen my argument about who is considered to be educated and what education is, I must add that at the time of the conversation, I had a university degree in psychology, yet I did not know how to adequately explain what education is. Unknown to them, I learned something about myself that day.
However, my favourite definition of education is ‘the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually [and morally] for mature life.’ This clearly explains two things: (1) not all holders of high school and university degrees and certificates are educated, and (2) many persons who have never been to universities or colleges or even high school are in fact, educated. This should also show that education takes place outside of traditional classrooms and lecture halls and that it is not only manifested in academics. Any type of training, knowledge, coaching, lesson, life experience, development, and improvement is a form of education.
With that said, I must emphasize that education is very important. It is obviously more than just sitting in a classroom or lecture room listening to teachers or lecturers go on and on about something they read in a book or on the internet, or something that their teachers told them in the past. And it is not simply reading books with loads of information. Education is when acquired knowledge is passed from one generation to the next. It is the heart of life and living, because in some form or another, as we age and/or grow, we are learning day by day. Malcolm X believed that ‘Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.’
Education is what shapes our society. What we do with our education (knowledge, learning, etc.) is very important. One of my daughters recently graduated from high school with several awards and tokens of recognition for excellence. Does that make her educated? According to the young men mentioned, does that mean she is not yet educated? What will she do with the knowledge gained? If she does nothing good with her life after this, is she still considered as educated? Did she even learn anything that will change her life?
The people who learn much and impart it in whatever way to help others are likely to become successful. A person who is not interested in learning anything that could change their mindset to become a useful and better person and to make others better are likely to continue to struggle in their dealings in life. Education, according to my favourite definition, is the driving force behind a successful and prosperous society.
Education is a lifetime investment. Gaining knowledge is what makes us keep up with the world and our society that continues to change. Knowledge has the potential to lead to big dreams and advise us on how to accomplish them. Being aware of what education really entails can prevent persons from hating on others who understand the need to be educated to have various options, and to make good and helpful decisions in life. Education can change mindsets and changed minds change lives.