I was speaking with my kids over the holiday break about their college courses, exams, and general thoughts on the quality of their college experience.
My daughter said something to me that resonated and made me realize our school systems are failing our students.
She was complaining about the multiple-choice exam for her psychology course, suggesting the exam itself didn’t really test her knowledge of the course material but, rather, her ability to decipher from the best choice of potentially correct statements. Options A and B are both correct, but B is slightly more correct than option A.
The problem with multiple-choice tests and exams isn’t new, and neither is the poor quality of some professors, many of whom are ill-equipped to teach a university-level course. These are the same problems I experienced when I was in high school and university. It seems there’s little appetite to address the problems that plague education and transcend multiple-choice testing.
Our education system is fundamentally broken, and the system needs to be disrupted. It was designed hundreds of years ago, and in too many ways we haven’t yet adapted our schools, or teaching methods, to the 21st century.
What Are We Teaching Students?
I addressed this problem to a small extent in a blog post I wrote a few months ago titled, How Do You Teach College Students About Money? A Message From a Father to His Daughter
In that post, I wrote, “How is it that our school system is graduating our students from high school, and many of them have no idea how to balance a checkbook or, frankly, don’t even know what a checkbook is?”
The problem with our school system extends well beyond not teaching our children about the basics of finance. We’re not teaching other important life skills, like how to pitch an idea, how to sell yourself, how to find your passions, how to be empathetic, how to be a great storyteller, how to be an entrepreneur, and so on.
These things are important life skills and aren’t being taught in high school or, even more disturbingly, in college.
To make it even worse, many of the educators, although well-meaning, aren’t equipped themselves to teach many of these issues. Many likely don’t know how to balance a checkbook, the basics of finance, or how to find their passion. Yes, the educators work hard, but these educators went through a school system that failed them, as well.
I interviewed many people over the years with a pedigree education, particularly in marketing and sales, some of whom even graduated with a degree in marketing. Although they understand what marketing is, most have no idea how to run a marketing campaign, manage SEO or PPC, write content that sells, optimize a landing page, run a digital marketing campaign, build an inside sales team, pitch a product, and, well, I could go on for pages about what they don’t know.
These are the types of skills most organizations need. So what are we teaching our students?
Our graduates can relate by rote the key marketing concepts for a successful campaign, but they have no idea what the first steps are to begin marketing their new business venture.
And this problem isn’t unique to marketing. It’s the same in many of the other college disciplines.
We’re teaching our children how to memorize, but we’re not helping them with the life skills they’ll need once they reach the real world.
The worst part is many teachers have a left-leaning socialist view of the world because that’s the world they live in. They don’t understand capitalism. They can recite word for word what capitalism is but are not able to explain how the capitalist world works. How money works.
I’ve heard of multiple occasions where my children were derided by their teachers and professors for expressing a capitalist perspective towards a topic. And some of these were from business professors.
Expert Insight: Dhanin Chearavanont
I recently read an interview with Thailand’s richest man, Dhanin Chearavanont. Dhanin was invited to speak at the Forum for World Education. In his speech, he said the school system should be shortened and students should be able to leave the college system and enter the workforce by 18. He suggested primary school should be shortened from six to four years and college from four to two.
Dhanin questioned why we even need to have students memorize things, especially today when everyone has access to a world of information at their fingertips inside of ten seconds with a quick Google search.
Dhanin said schools should make their students ready for the job market by teaching them to learn from real-world problems and challenges.”The best university is society. A classroom cannot instill wisdom. Wisdom can only be learned through real-life problems. In the classroom, you only get secondhand knowledge, while life is all about experience.”
The purpose of education is to teach our students about and prepare them for life.”We have to give our children unique knowledge, so machines can never catch up with us—knowledge like values, beliefs, independence of thought, teamwork, caring for others, etc.”
Expert Insight: Abdul Kalam
There’s a famous expression from Abdul Kalam. He said teaching is a very noble profession that shapes the character, caliber, and future of an individual. Teaching is one of the most important jobs we have in our society, and unfortunately, it isn’t treated that way.
We need to better educate our teachers so they can better teach the skills we need. Not just for today but for a better future. We need to pay our teachers more and encourage the best minds to enter the teaching profession.
The education system is broken. It’s time for some long-overdue disruption.