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Education is What Remains after One has Forgotten What One has Learned in School

  • 30 Nov 2023
  • 9 min read

"Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel." 


"Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school" invites us to explore the profound distinction between the act of learning within the classroom and the enduring essence of education. While formal schooling equips us with knowledge and skills, true education transcends the boundaries of curriculum and textbooks. It encompasses a lifelong journey of personal growth, self-discovery, and the application of wisdom acquired from various sources. 

Schools and educational institutions serve as essential foundations for acquiring knowledge, skills, and socialization. They offer structured environments where individuals are exposed to a wide range of subjects, fostering intellectual growth and critical thinking. The formal education system is designed to impart a standardized body of knowledge, laying the groundwork for students to navigate the complexities of the world.

In school, we learn mathematics, science, literature, history, and a myriad of other subjects that provide us with a solid academic foundation. We are introduced to teachers and mentors who guide us, imparting knowledge, and nurturing our intellectual development. Furthermore, the classroom environment fosters interpersonal skills, teamwork, and cooperation, all of which are essential in the real world.

Knowledge acquired in school is not an end in itself but rather a means to an end. Over time, the specific facts, equations, dates, and details we learn in school may fade from our memory. What endures, though, is the capacity to think critically, solve problems, and adapt to new challenges. This enduring aspect of education transcends the confines of formal education.

Consider, for instance, a student who learns a complex mathematical theorem in school. Years later, they might not remember the exact formula or method, but they retain the ability to approach mathematical problems with a logical mindset. The essence of their mathematical education remains, despite the fading of specific knowledge.

True education extends beyond the classroom and continues throughout one's life. It is a commitment to lifelong learning and self-improvement. In a rapidly changing world, the ability to adapt and learn continuously is a valuable asset. The skills acquired through formal education provide a foundation upon which individuals can build throughout their lives.

Faraday, born into poverty without formal education, gained scientific knowledge while working as a bookbinder. He read up on a lot of science and  took initiative, independently discovering electromagnetism, inventing the Bunsen burner, finding benzene, and creating the first electric motor and generator. His self-driven pursuits led him to become one of the most significant scientists in history.

Lifelong learners actively seek out new knowledge, skills, and experiences. They engage in reading, exploration, and self-reflection. They embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and view failures as valuable learning experiences. This pursuit of lifelong learning allows individuals to remain adaptable and relevant in an ever-evolving society.

One of the most significant aspects of education beyond school is self-discovery. As we venture into the world and engage with various experiences, we uncover our passions, strengths, and weaknesses. We learn about our values, beliefs, and aspirations, which shape our identity and guide our life choices.

This process of self-discovery is often facilitated by exposure to diverse perspectives and cultures. Travel, interactions with people from different backgrounds, and engagement with the arts and humanities all contribute to a broader understanding of the world and ourselves. Education, in this sense, is not just about acquiring external knowledge but also about gaining insights into our inner selves.

Informal education, which occurs outside of formal institutions, plays a pivotal role in shaping individuals' lives. It encompasses a wide array of experiences, including mentorship, self-study, travel, volunteering, and participation in hobbies and interests. Informal education allows individuals to pursue their passions, develop unique skills, and gain practical knowledge that may not be covered in traditional classrooms.

A person interested in photography might take courses, read books, and practice extensively to become a skilled photographer. The knowledge and expertise gained in this informal educational journey are often more valuable than any formal degree. Similarly, mentorship from experienced individuals in a particular field can provide valuable insights and guidance that transcend what can be learned from textbooks alone.

Education, whether acquired in school or beyond, equips individuals with critical thinking and problem-solving skills. These skills are essential for navigating the complexities of life, making informed decisions, and addressing the challenges that arise.

Critical thinking involves the ability to evaluate information, assess its validity, and make reasoned judgments. It encourages individuals to question assumptions, consider multiple perspectives, and arrive at well-informed conclusions. This skill is invaluable in a world filled with misinformation and rapidly changing circumstances.

Problem-solving, on the other hand, is the capacity to identify challenges, develop strategies, and implement solutions. It is not limited to academic problems but extends to real-world issues in various domains, such as business, healthcare, and social justice. The ability to approach problems systematically and creatively is a hallmark of an educated individual.

Beyond the acquisition of knowledge and skills, education also fosters empathy and a deeper understanding of others. Exposure to diverse perspectives and experiences allows individuals to empathize with people from different backgrounds and cultures. This empathy is essential for building inclusive and compassionate societies.

Consider the impact of literature and storytelling on our capacity for empathy. Reading novels that explore the lives and experiences of characters from different walks of life can expand our understanding of human diversity and foster empathy for individuals facing challenges or adversity. Similarly, engaging with history and the stories of different cultures can lead to a greater appreciation for the richness of human experiences.

Education, in its truest sense, empowers individuals to become active and responsible citizens. Informed citizens are better equipped to participate in the democratic process, engage in civic activities, and advocate for positive change in society.

Beyond the classroom, education encourages individuals to stay informed about current events, social issues, and political developments. It inspires them to take action to address societal challenges, whether through volunteering, advocacy, or community engagement. An educated populace is essential for the functioning of a just and equitable society.

Education empowers with critical thinking, adaptability, and problem-solving skills. It fosters self-discovery, empathy, and social responsibility, reaching beyond formal institutions to include informal learning, mentorship, and personal pursuits. In a rapidly changing world, the significance of lifelong learning cannot be emphasized enough

“Education is Not the Learning of Facts, But the Training of the Mind to Think,” 

—Albert Einstein

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