A conversation just cropped up on one of the IRC channels I lurk in regarding the stupidity of some programmers (one person called them “learning resistant”) and led us back to the education system.
My personal opinion of the current education system (I’ve specifically experienced the British education system, but from what I’ve seen, most aren’t that different) is that it’s pretty much completely screwed and that the only thing that could save us is a complete overhaul from scratch.
I believe I’ve pinpointed what I believe to be the root cause of the problem. Learning and, possibly more importantly, unlearning (that is, the ability to recognise information that we have learned that may be incorrect or incomplete and needs to be “forgotten” or “rewritten”). Our education system basically doesn’t teach and encourage these skills. Our system is based on spewing out data (it could be referred to as information, but in many cases there’s barely any context surrounding it, so I’m not sure even that term applies) and hoping that^W^W forcing students to retain the data and spew it out in a 2 hour period called an exam.
Exams as they currently stand only examine one thing. How well can you remember data? That’s pretty much all they do for every single subject.
The current education system almost completely neglects skills, instead concentrating almost solely on the transfer of data from teacher to student… In the day and age of encyclopedias, books and the Internet that are readily accessible to anyone we concentrate on the transfer of data. Why?
Unfortunately I believe that this is unlikely to change in the forseeable future. By the time that people can get anywhere where they can change this they either don’t care or have been indoctrinated by their years in the system into believing that this is the only way.
There’s few things which could change this, but I believe these are unlikely to happen within our lifetime.
The first is didactic learning imprinted directly into the mind. If you’ve seen The Matrix, you’ll know the sort of thing I’m talking about, although the methods in The Matrix seem to go further than simple didactic learning and include experiences and possibly even memories). Hook up a computer interface of some sort (it may not necessarily by so invasive as that in The Matrix – Peter F. Hamilton’s The Naked God forsees the use of light and the optic nerve to carry out this process) and upload the data.
Unfortunately, due to the wide use of “didactic” in other contexts, my current searches for information on these kinds of didactic learning methods have been rather fruitless.
Unfortunately I believe that only once technology has done away with any conceivable use for the current education system will it be reformed to concentrate on skills and experience. Even then there’s the danger that the system will just disappear completely (altho that may not be such a bad thing, as youth would then have to find something else to do with their time – altho the danger exists that the current age of employment limits would simply be done away with in such a society and you could be working from the age of say 10).
Another technology that’s been in the news recently is visual interfaces on contact lenses. While these are still in the very early stages of development, they could conceivably be commercially available with in our lifetime. If people now have immediate access to the Internet any time and any where, combined with technology small enough to make it almost undetectable without a thorough search (which isn’t too far fetched even today), this would also move towards making didactic teaching by the education system obsolete.