What is the value of an education?

Photo credit - David Cantelli via unsplash.com

Photo credit – David Cantelli via unsplash.com

I was at the gym recently, just doing my thing, and listening to the conversation between some young people around me. What I heard was that someone had finished a degree but had no job in the area. (My guess – taking a gap year in Niseko!) There were exchanges about degrees and their value. I suggested that it was something no one could take away from them. And further, that it was evidence that they knew how to learn. It made me think though – what is the real value of education?

Appreciating education
In today’s society, many of us expect to be able to be educated. For many there is a choice about going to university. I wonder if we somehow take it for granted, and therefore “miss” the value education offers. It is when someone has not had the opportunity for this and gets it, that a fuller appreciation of education is enjoyed.

But listening to the conversation in the gym, reinforced for me that the value of education is sometimes “lost”. I recall hearing about agencies recruiting people from any discipline. Their rationale was that someone who knew how to learn (ie had successfully completed a degree) was able learn the skills required in their organisation.

The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.
~ Carl Rogers

What is the real value of education?
Some would suggest the education provides you with an opportunity to learn about different perspectives. To consider other viewpoints, understand them and evaluate them is an important part of this process. To be a critical thinker, to recognise the differences in viewpoints and to form a position based on an evaluation of the presented information are some of the benefits of education.

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
~ Aristotle

I think the real value of education is in how you apply what you learn. And to be fair, this takes time. Do you remember when you got your driver’s licence? There was a theory test and a practical one where you were required to demonstrate various skills – driving in traffic, parking, hill starts etc. But the real learning for driving a car, happened when you had your licence and were driving. So too with other professions. Take teaching for example. You just need to put in the time teaching to learn from experience, the things that work for you and the things that don’t.

This suggests that the value of education is to provide you with an entry into a field. It is how you use that opportunity and take it further, that determines the value you have gained from your education.

I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.
― Maya Angelou

The value of choice
Education provides you with choices. You get to choose the path you travel. It may be a well-trodden one. It may not, and may take you through uncharted waters. Or, it may just be the path less travelled – leaving scope for applying your knowledge and skills to dealing with the challenges that arise.

The value of your choice can be assessed in your outcomes, or in the learning value gained. It requires taking a perspective to accommodate variable views. An education can provide you with insight into this process, but ultimately you need to manage your learning yourself. A growth mindset enhances progress in this area. Seeing the opportunities that present in different areas is valuable for capitalising on the inherent value of life as education.

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.
~John Dewey

What do you think about education and the value it offers? I’d be interested to know.

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