Formal Education is Dying

15 November 2021

Formal education in schools is developing very slowly, like a snail trying to catch up with a rushing rabbit, which is the crazy world around us.

What do we need schools for, anyways?

Little has changed since the inception of the first schools some 300 years ago. The assumption is that schools are supposed to teach discipline, provide general knowledge about the world and, most importantly, keep children safe when their parents go to work. At a higher level, it helps students gain solid professional qualifications, educates future scientists, and encourages thinking at the highest level of abstraction.

What is wrong?

The world is rushing forward while, behind school walls, time is stuck in an old rickety cabinet and doesn’t pay attention to anything happening around it. Systemic education is a strange creation in which neither students, teachers, school heads, nor parents feel very good. In fact, it’s hard to name someone who thinks everything is fine. Countries around the world report a crisis in the education system.

What is the problem with education?

The curriculums are overloaded, detached from the needs of everyday life and cannot be completed in the time available. In addition, the documentation required to complete it is horrendous. As a result, teachers cannot do their jobs well without going against the tide and risking their own necks. All of this takes a toll on children and parents.

“The teacher told us today that we were terrible and that if we were loud again, she would test us during every lesson.”

“Most of the people in our class cheat because there are so many tests that they probably would have to stop sleeping to deal with it all.”

“My math teacher constantly criticizes me and scares me that I will not pass to the next grade.”

Have you heard any of the above sentences from your child? If not, you are in the minority.

How are the students dealing with this? It is very simple – when they are forced to handle it all, and are rushed and overloaded with material, they react with aggression or passive aggression. It is often said that today’s youth is lazy, disengaged, talks back, and is without personality. Not what it used to be! Unfortunately, their attitude is a reflection of how we adults behave in the teaching process and a response to the fact that we too often demand, scare, ignore, and bore them to death.

What instead?

Before our eyes, more and more new alternatives to traditional educational institutions are being created: democratic schools, Montessori schools, and home schooling. Parents are less and less pleased with the values ​​their children are fed in schools and, seeing the pressure exerted, they look for alternative environments in which they are less judged, competed with, and motivated by fear. Of course, not everyone can afford the options, but in a few years, if you have money and a small child, you will carefully consider where to send them every day in the most important years of their lives.

And at the level of universities and vocational schools?

– How were your studies?

– I don’t know, I was sleeping.

Modern students are not very immune to boredom. They no longer want traditional lectures based only on listening and performing imitative tasks. Easy access to constantly improved commercial training is raising the bar of acceptable quality in education.

Universities are supposed to equip students with professional qualifications. But today, students often say “I’ll just check” and submit their CV for positions without having a formal diploma. And surprisingly, in many industries such as IT, trade, marketing, arts, and even production and services, such people get jobs, and recruiters – against the liking of educational institutions – instead of “what do you know?” more often ask “what can you do?”

What instead?

All of the creators of digital education, e-learning courses, and platforms supporting self-education are experiencing a boom. Thanks to them, an education can be obtained without leaving the home, and the quality of commercial education, thanks to competition and customer requirements, continues to get better and better. What do universities say? Whether they like it or not, they have to join the race and try harder and harder.

Should we do something about all of this?

Education is on the verge of a great crisis that will continue to worsen over the upcoming decades. What awaits us? Maybe a return to elite, prestigious schools, with exorbitant tuition fees and reserved only for the richest caste? In this scenario, children from poorer families will suffer and social disproportions will increase significantly.

However, not all is lost. We can still actively fight for education reform at all stages of education. Besides, let’s pull our savings from the sock and invest in EdTech. This industry will win in every possible scenario for the future.

About the Authors

Alina Guzik

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  • Educational expert and consultant; EdTeach product designer; passionate about innovation, trends, and modern education. Leader of R&D projects.
  • Creator of a dozen of award-winning digital products addressing the following areas: project-based learning, special educational needs, coding, robotics, career development, math, bank of educational digital resources, educational mobile apps, and many more.
  • Author of a world-class innovation project granted by the National Center for Research and Development in the field of personalization, AI, and machine-learning educational solutions. Author of the “Book of Trends in Education” awarded with the REVERE Award.
  • A teacher by profession and an innovator by choice.

Kasia Pruska

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  • Versatile and charismatic product expert with almost two decades of experience in the EdTech industry. An advocate of the reasonable use of technology in education.
  • Creator and co-creator of 10+ digital products (web and mobile) for education in preschool, K12, ELT (English as a second language), tertiary, and higher education markets.
  • Editor of 20+ books, digital content developer, and author.
  • Strategist and expert of product design and delivery.
  • Mindful listener, life-long learner, researcher, and entrepreneur.
  • On a mission to inspire organizations to create products that change the world.
  • A teacher of English by profession and a product manager by choice.