Friday, March 23, 2007

Formal Education as a Self-Perpetuating Institution

I have one big problem with formal education (i.e. schools). It's not in the education itself (although that one has its own set of problems) but rather in how people tend to over-estimate its value.

It's quite simple really. In terms of the job market, what's the first thing that employers screen for in applicants? Unfortunately it's usually the diploma, the school where he graduated from, and/or his education attainment. It's a starting place, mind you, but there's a tendency to base majority of your decision based on those facts.

I like a meritocracy, even if that's not necessarily the fact of life in the real world. The problem with basing hiring policy on diploma alone is that it is limited. I mean there's probably great, talented programmers out there who don't have a degree in Computer Science (they're self-taught). And there are probably designers out there who don't necessarily have the educational background of their preferred field but had informal ways of nurturing their craft.

But the fact of the matter is, some people base their decisions in diploma alone. And it's a perpetuating cycle. Ateneans for example will have a preference for Ateneans. Sometimes the reasoning isn't necessarily because of their education but because of the kinship one feels for them -- he/she came from my alma matter.

The current structure of schools isn't designed to innovate but is rather similar to the current structure of government: it's there to last, to resist change, to maintain the status quo. And it does it quite well. What's shocking is that people aren't aware of it, or don't want to see it.

I'm not against formal education mind you--I'm a product of that system (and I excelled in it). I just want to point out its limits and how many fail to see this uncomfortable truth. One shouldn't underestimate informal education however.

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