About School (Again)


This is what I wrote on my Twitter (@equshay) three days ago:

“Do I want to be a student again? Yes, any time! But I don’t want to go to school again.”

Yes, it’s about school and education again. I’ve raised this issued in this blog at least twice before, and there is no guarantee I will not write about it again. It’s one of the things I probably feel so deeply about.

Being a teacher, a citizen, and a member of the society, I know how important school and schooling are. If anyone should ask me if I would encourage children to go to school, I’d say, yes, of course. Schools are important. They are a place where citizens and members of a society get their credentials and learn how to be a good citizen and member of the society.

However, at the same time, I would also not hesitate to remind everyone that school should not be equalized with learning and being a student. School is a place, an institution, whereby learning is organized — structured, directed, objectified — to achieve a set of goals, of which primary among them are to give children the skills and knowledge they need to be good citizens and members of the society. But learning, and therefore being a student, is about something much larger than that.

Learning can take place anywhere at any time and for any purposes. It’s life-long. Schooling, on the contrary, happens only in a designated place, that is the school, for a limited time and for a set of pre-established goals.

There is another difference between learning and schooling that I think is equally important if not more: learning implies self-directed efforts at finding answers to the questions or problems one has — those that are often most poignant, deeply felt, personally relevant to their own survival and betterment as an individual. Schooling, on the other hand, implies an externally-imposed direction, in which pursuit of knowledge is largely socially motivated and directed. You go to school to be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, a professor, or any other professions that are socially accredited; you learn in order to become a better, more reflective, and a more functional person. In the former, the process can stop — theoretically at least — once the goal is achieved; in the latter, it cannot because being better, being more reflective and more functional are not a static point. They are always provisional, always intermediary, and contingent upon the shifting landscapes of living contexts.

I agree that schooling is part of the process of learning; however, there is no way schooling can replace learning all together.

So the answer to the question I posed at the beginning of this essay “Do I want to be a student again?” is always a resounding yes, and anytime. I’ve been a student all my life and will always be one as long as I live. This is to say that I will never stop learning, will never stop directing myself to become a better, more reflective and a more functional person. But do I want to go to school again? No, unless I can convince myself it is the place where I can get and attain my personally-relevant goals, those that are most poignant, those that can answer questions and solve problems I have to make me a more rounded person. Even then I would only consider it is the only way and place I could get them.

I am not a school person, but I always am a learner. Will always be one.

Eki Akhwan,
Warsaw, 15 January 2014

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