Anciently, future paths and career options were predetermined by race, class and ethnicity. Education systems in Africa were shaped for homogeneous groups of students with a narrow range of career options. Specific groups of people were raised to be engineers, doctors, lawmakers, among others.
The prejudicial affiliations of certain people with certain career options have, over the years, faded. However, it is so absurd that our education systems have remained monotonic in teaching styles, rated high in theoretic content, retained their hierarchical setups and arbitrarily fixed the futures of young people.
Since the education system has proved successful for the older generations, it is being carried on to the new era inconsiderate of the changes in times.
Even now, it normalises the delivery of dry, technical lectures and models an authoritarian approach to solving problems. The system is so standardised and highly structured that it is so oblivious to the most immediate challenges we face in our communities. As a result, we are continuously having inept, incompetent, and unambitious youth, with no expertise in line with challenges faced in society today, come into the job market.
I recall being taught about wheat growing in Switzerland, made to recite the rise and fall of the Ngoni and Adolph Hitler, but not Mahatma Gandhi, being forced to restate that the head of a family is a father and a mother’s role is to cook, give birth and take care of children. Among several other dubious things. I am not saying that history or subjects we are taught are not important, rather, they should be focused on enhancing our knowledge, first on ourselves, our societies and they should be coherent with the current and future needs.
Unfortunately, the reality of what we face as challenges in our daily lives lies in maize growing, conflict, wrenching poverty and hunger, climate change, an unconscious sexist and ageist society, among other pertinent issues. No wonder you will find engineers constructing roads that get ruined in less than a year. Youngsters that are highly qualified on paper, seeking jobs in the tourism and hospitality industry, but possess literally no work related skills. Journalists that cannot articulate themselves. They know it all in theory but their knowledge cannot materialise.
The standardised system advances to gauge one’s intelligence, and ridiculously compares one student to another — never putting into account our unique and profound differences. The students are raised through a system of comparisons, to tailor their successes on others, and end up failing to achieve their maximum potential.
After about 15 years of hard studying, one’s intelligence and eternal ability is judged in just a few hours of sitting an examination. With no considerations of any natural distractions and hazards. When one fails, he or she is doomed.
As a result, witty young people have shifted their efforts to devising solutions to solve the challenge posed by the system. Having realised that attention is more on the academic results, most of the students, thus, read so hard, cram, averagely pass examinations and forget. They fake it, until they make it but remain fake anyway.
In the numerous years of acting and stage-managing results, their initial levels of ingenuity and creativity are ripped apart. When they reach into the real world, they realise that no standardised systems exist. It’s rather a system of trial and error, where appealing academic papers are prerequisites for attending a formal job interview, but one’s communication skills, character ethic, learning agility and performance power facilitate them to blossom.
To bridge this gap, the education system should be more competence-based with progressive assessments to roughly estimate one’s abilities. It should as well be shaped to recognise our unique talents and offer a platform to exploit them. Essentially, the essence of education is to train, align and expand one’s intellectual capabilities, not to condemn and diminish them.
The world is now a global village, with changing trends. It demands that we take more responsibility for ourselves, work more effectively with others, communicate inarguably well, critically think, manage complex tasks in complex situations, among other essential unspoken skills. The reigning perception held by the older generations that these skills are innately acquired or heavenly sent doesn’t help the young people.
The times have changed; the previously successful system has largely failed to serve the interests of the heterogeneous groups of young people whose career paths are no longer predetermined. The young people are our society and hope for our future. For them to learn, earn and thrive in today’s increasingly complex world, the education system needs to adapt pressingly.
The writer is a storyteller/public speaking trainer, leadership coach and student at the African Leadership University