In contemporary times, almost as a cultural practice, education has been elevated to the level of an initiation rite into the modern world. With the aid of formal educational training, people acquire the skills of reading and writing. It is obvious that literacy, the ability to read and write, has become a requisite for coping with numerous challenges of modern times. As a strategy for ensuring that no child is denied the opportunity of acquiring formal education, not sending a child to school is a criminal offence in some parts of the world, especially in the West. In addition, some governments assist their citizens to acquire formal education by either subsidising the cost or making it available at no cost (at the basic level, at least).
It is impossible to fit into the modern times if one does not go to school. Consequently, education is a necessity, not a luxury. People’s attitude to education in contemporary time appears to suggest, in fidelity to Platonism, that it is better to be unborn than to be uneducated. The demand for education in different parts of the world is unarguably on daily increase. People make numerous sacrifices to acquire education. Parents are willing to give all they have in order to see their children through school. Some people travel to foreign countries in order to acquire quality educational training. Acquiring formal education has become one of the greatest priorities in life today.
However, despite the wide acceptance formal education has gained all over the world, one of the most significant questions about education that is often not asked is, “What is the relevance of education to practical life?’ In other words, to what extent is education helpful in addressing practical life challenges? This question needs to be asked because the expected impacts of education are absent is the life of many educated people. One of the factors that speak very eloquently on this is that education has continuously remained unable to improve the standard of living of numerous graduates.
It is imperative to remark that education is a means to an end, but not an end in itself. The implication of this is that education is a process that leads to the making of a product. The process is incomplete without the product. It is the product that gives value to the means. The quality of the process can be inferred from the quality of the product. As a means, education is incomplete without the end of the process. This end is the purpose it (education) is designed to serve (under ideal situation). Let us justify our claim that the expected impacts of education are absent is the life of many educated people by examining a very sensitive aspect of life of educated people, their finances.
How many educated people are truly financially successful? Most graduates struggle all through life to make ends meet, but to no avail. There are numerous people who graduated from tertiary institutions (even at the top of the class), but who are far below many people with lower educational training (academic intelligence and scholarly ability) than theirs in the ladder of financial success. Perhaps, financial struggles and crises are worse among educated people. Most educated people struggle all through their working years merely to make ends meet, but to no avail, and end as liabilities during their retirement.
The inability of education to assist graduates in managing real life challenges is rooted in the fact that most people are ignorant of the purpose of education. Why do we go to school? Why should people go to school? What is the purpose of education? What is the rationale of education? What are the objectives of education? Why should parents send their children to school? Education is one of the most abused or, rather, misunderstood human experiences. Unless the purpose of education is understood and clarified, the continuity of its abuse (by most people) will remain inevitable. Many people go to school for the wrong reasons. In addition, most parents send their children to school for the wrong reasons. Most people have erroneous conceptions about the objectives of education.
It is imperative to remark that this problem is rooted in the fact that the major incentive for going to school in the earliest days of its inception in different parts of the world was that it was a ticket to prosperity. This was possible then because employment opportunities abound for educated people then. But things have changed, and very significantly. In most parts of the world today, there is high level of unemployment among educated people. Thus, education does not guarantee financial success anymore. In fact, education has become a major cause of poverty, considering the fact that it has no provision for instilling the knowledge of wealth creation principles in students.
It is high time the purpose of education is reconsidered. The idea of going to school in order to acquire certificate should be denounced, if the training will improve the life of educated people. The idea of going to school in order to prepare for gainful employment should also be denounced because there are limited employment opportunities for unlimited graduates. If school prepares graduates for employment, but there are limited employment opportunities for unlimited graduates, it means that school prepares students for unemployment. This is why the conception that school merely prepares students for gainful employment is unacceptable.
The ideal purpose of education is to facilitate an integral development of the human person – the intellectual, moral, physical, social, spiritual, psychical and psychological dimensions of man. Going to school should facilitate the optimum development of all the aspects of the human person. An ideal educational system should not isolate any aspect of man in the training process, nor consider some aspects more important than others. Anything short of this is an aberration, and is unacceptable.