Have you ever wondered if there was more to human evolution than just standing upright, cooking with fire and forming societies? Well, I have, and I strongly believe that with our dependence on technology and unidirectional education system, we have stunted it.
From the very beginning, we tell students that art, music, and literature are all hobbies and none of these make for serious subjects. They’re even taught in school very casually, with absolutely no explanation of their history, relevance or even how to be a master in them (which is why we don’t have a Michelangelo in our generation).
But the problem is more serious and acute than this.
Our education system is now packaged to mass deliver students prepared to take on specific jobs and roles. Now, there are patterns to follow if you want to find success in your career and make it big in your dream company. So first, you get through schooling, then junior college and finally get a bachelor’s degree (that is 17 years of education, by the way). This is good for those who want to start off working literally anywhere (or can’t afford the burdening cost of a higher education). Those with the power of money over their heads will go on to pursue a Master’s degree or even better an MBA (sounds more elite, no?). Now, the ones who made it through the thin tube of the funnel will land the best of jobs, get into top-notch positions and accept that such is life and this is what happiness feels like. This process also chokes budding inventors and entrepreneurs.
Let’s scroll back a little. Our preceding generations were satisfied with a junior college degree, and the really smart ones pursued their bachelor’s. However, with the education system introducing new and higher standards (with an equally skyrocketing cost) the basic education foundation has not been upgraded and continues to be vague. Today there are hardly any good job opportunities for those with a bachelor’s degree and the struggle to climb up is getting harder every day. And of course, if you really are that smart and want to climb up the corporate ladder, you’ll have to spend two more years studying (you say whaaat?)
While yes, we can blame the education system, politicians, banks (for disappointing education loans), and well, everyone else involved in the process, but wait, look at us. We are born in the 21st century. Most of us post-1990 folks live and breathe new technology and the internet (some may even call us fast learners). With the tonnes of information supplied on the internet, social media access to connect with people of similar interest and many platforms to launch yourself, why do we wait for a master’s degree or an MBA?
Isn’t it great that we don’t have to use natural light to study anymore or sit in the library for hours in the midst of dusty old books with a magnifying glass? However, even with an easier process, we still don’t seem to get it right. The problem is that we too, along with the corporates and educational institutes have accepted the (untrue) fact that to learn one must have a classroom and tutor, and this amalgamation should fructify into a degree.
Buddies, we’ve got the internet, and with all that we’re already exploring on it, we’ve got the power. So what’s stopping us? If we truly want to learn (and are not only placement-hungry), isn’t the internet our greatest teacher? Let’s be real: It has a plethora of articles and videos for information, we can get in touch with other humans who share our interest and can help us out, and it updates itself with new stuff on every possible subject every day. Isn’t that what we wanted?
You can start off your learning journey with the University Of Reddit. You can interact with fellow humans who share similar interests or someone who is pursuing a role you aspire to be in. Their content is easily accessible, varied and free. Plus you have tonnes of redditors to help solve your doubts or answer any questions. Next, you can explore Brain Pickings. It is a gigantic melting pot of articles that cover a range of topics in detail like psychology, design, history, philosophy, anthropology, politics, and a lot more. You’ll love this site for its pure content and no ad feature. You can also sign up for their newsletter for daily and weekly mailers with their best content.
For courses, you can check edX and Konversations. edX has a wide range of short courses that you can take for free. Most of these courses are a specific part of a broader subject. You can opt for a certification at the end of the course (for a price of course) and these certificates can be added to your resume and LinkedIn profile. You must check out the short-term courses conducted by institutes like Harvard, IIM Bangalore, Wharton, etc. On the other hand, Konversations has more practical based courses. You’ll learn from experts in the field on topics that are most relevant to working professionals like data analysis, retail sales, brand management, fundamentals of finance, etc. The courses are interactive with fun exercises and videos, and you can complete the course at your own pace.
For any engineers reading this, you can check out Codeacademy, where you can learn to code in different languages for free, and it is also a great platform to practise your codes on a regular basis. For the MBA folks who may not have gotten into the IIMs, there are many short courses by these institutions that you can take up on the side. You can find most of these courses on the institute’s website.
If you aren’t someone who’s high on reading, check out YouTube channels for specific content. Channels like Money Week, Crash Course, Firms Consulting, and The Great Courses Plus have extremely well-presented content for their viewers and publish one or more videos every week.
For everything else, there's Google. Nothing better than researching your way through a topic with articles, research journals and data that’s available online. For more detailed content you can search the topics on Google Scholar.
There are also several communities of autodidacts (basically people who are self-taught and take pride in learning new things) where information is GOLD. You’ll be amazed to interact with people from different walks of life, and how they have turned things around themselves. Websites like LessWrong 2.0 just makes this process easier, and of course, the internet has unfathomable information.
So what’re you waiting for? I know it’s scary and that we’ve always been told that education has to come a certain way, but we need to break this vicious cycle. We’re what they call the millennials. We’re tech-savvy, impatient and ever-changing. So why not change the way we educate ourselves or how we use social media? While yes, there are no placement opportunities or a degree to take back when you’re self-learning, but that doesn’t make what you’ve learned any less valuable. Even if you’re pursuing your master’s education or an MBA, don’t just stop at what is taught in the classrooms, widen your horizons with all that’s available on the world wide web.
Remember, the Newtons and Einsteins of the world didn’t wait for tutors, placements, or heck even the internet, but they discovered, invented and added a little more to the world. So buckle up Sully, we’ve got a big world to conquer.