Education isn't everything

Education isn't everything

Recently I wrote a column about my intentions to pull my son out of the Thai school system to allow him to choose his own learning path.

I mentioned how Thailand's educational system had totally failed me, while at the same time realising that there were other learning options, specifically in the form of media and travelling.

But there is also another significant reason as to why I now care less about schooling. Unlike most parents of the 21st century, I do believe a person can still have a great life even without a proper education.

I'm sure for the majority of Thai parents, the higher up the education ladder their children climb, the happier they are. Ironically, such parental happiness may come with very little concern over whether or not their child is actually content with what he or she receives from school. Schooling for youngsters can at times signify a meaningless burden, both physical and emotional.  

Growing up in the 80s, I had been misled to think that education was the highway to success. In fact, I was exposed to no other choices other than that of the "school cult", viewed as being imperative to social survival.  

25 years ago, had I told my parents that I wanted to quit school to sell fried bananas on the street, they would have sworn to me that the rest of my life would be lived in misery. Looking back, I doubt that their lives would have become such a tragedy had they had to admit to others that their child hadn't finished, in the very least, a university degree.

Sadly, the term "uneducated" has long been used in Thai society to label people with low academic achievements as "unqualified". To believe so, I believe, is bluntly ignorant.

A person isn't necessarily incompetent just because they have not completed their schooling. Very often they can be more competent than a PhD graduate.

For instance, people tend to treat a physiology professor with more respect than they do a typical law school graduate. More respect is given to the lawyer than a nurse, and more respect to a nurse when stood beside a sloppy-looking fisherman who can hardly spell the word "college".  Why? Basically, because we judge people based upon their academic qualifications. 

But if you happen to find yourself on a boat amidst an ocean storm, who do reckon is more likely to save your life? The well-educated person or the elementary school-drop out? If you were in a car accident, would you wish the first person to find you be a nurse or a high-profiled lawyer? (I know what you're thinking — cha-ching).  

The world is blessed with great diversity. And that's what makes it liveable — if not more intriguing, right?

People, even identical twins, are born with their own individualities. We have different genes, skills and interests. So why are we expected to reach for the same standards when it comes to our learning abilities? Why should we treasure the one-size-fits-all education system, chasing the same certificates thousands of people already possess?

Would society necessarily be better if all of us had a PhD? I don't think so. On the contrary, it would be a horrible place to live if everyone tried to be the smartest. 

I wouldn't mind telling people if my son didn't manage to finish high school, if he couldn't speak English with a good accent or if he is lousy at sports. Who cares? I would, however, be very sad if he had the wrong values, showed no gratitude or could not take care of himself as an adult.

The days whereby human efficiency and values are judged according to the height of one's education should be over.

We should view people according to what they do and how they behave, not in terms of what academic degrees they have. Having a son who is a rocket scientist or pilot wouldn't necessary make me more satisfied than having one who is a durian farmer.

On the other hand, I would be more proud seeing my offspring able to live a good and happy life out of his small earnings than seeing him running after a big-time salary.

The world is cruel enough. People should not get any more attached to analysing others in terms of the superlatives that come with having academic qualifications. Richer does not mean smarter and smarter does not mean better. Everyone has a different kind of excellence.

As I said at the beginning, I would prefer to let my son choose his own learning path. Also, don't get me wrong as I'm not totally against formal education. He can stay in school so long as it is his own choice and he is not staying there because of social pressures.  

I believe life itself is a constant learning process. We should be able to learn anything at anytime, without time frames or limitations on what subject should be studied when and where or at any specific age or place.

More importantly, life spent outside the classroom will broaden his exposure to diversity and make him treat others with less prejudice.     

Vanniya Sriangura is senior writer and food columnist of Life.

Vanniya Sriangura

Senior writer and food columnist of Life

Vanniya Sriangura is a senior writer and food columnist of Life.

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