To what extent are schools beneficial to our society?

[1] For many years, having an education presumably enhances our chances to have a ‘future’ of some sort. But is that really true and absolute?  

Ever since being a little boy, I have always wished for a magical injection of knowledge. It was one of those days I really did not feel like studying. I longed for one injection that once it infuses into your body, your brain instantaneously knows pretty much everything there is to the essay or maths question, to life even. One day, I had my dad saying that there would be no point of man surviving if knowledge as a phenomenon vanished. We will not be able to achieve and have the achievements. It, therefore, occurred to me, to finally try and dissect this question and let myself and hopefully yourself realise whether schools are really beneficial to our society or not. I will be discussing the advantages and disadvantages of providing students with schools, and how might we try and improve this situation with Finland and South Africa as both ends of the spectrum.


1) Advantage – importance of school in general 

The most fundamental advantage of having a school is the concept to learn and to make friends. Everyone who applies to a school will readily feel that this will be a stepping stone to achieve a better future, as they are better qualified with some foundation skills of their favourite subject. By the word ‘learn’, this could also mean many different things. Certainly, the first type of learning would be the regular definition of grasping the knowledge and skills of the subject. The difference between someone who does and does not attend school, is the benefit of making connections – meeting new people and becoming more sociable. This is important, as learning facts and figures alone at home is definitely feasible, but oftentimes lonely and one-dimensional.


2) How knowledge is tested 

This sense of learning leads us to our next point in the fact that we learn various skills. As aforementioned, learning facts and figures are definitely a possibility, but reciting knowledge independently can be frustrating. By going to school and having different skills tested, we can be more qualified. For example, we have humanities subjects like history, English literature, philosophy… and languages like French, Spanish, German… This is key, as these particular subjects can help us familiarise with foreign languages to become multi-linguistic or to have an analytical brain to digest copious amount of facts.


Moreover, there are calculations and experiments in the natural sciences of maths, chemistry, biology and physics to understand and test empirical data. By being assessed, we have more sense of organisational and presentation skills, essential for jobs to think quickly on our feet and to have better time-manangement skills to complete certain tasks. By now, I think you understand the direction I am coming from – school can lead us to become a better trained employee, or at least in theory. However, by testing us through the most common way of tests, are they really the most effective way to show our comprehension of a certain subject? Is memory enough to lead us through in life with a one-off occasion of saying 1+1=2 or that Hitler wanted to conquer Eastern Europe for more Lebensraum? Shouldn’t the most compulsory subjects of Maths and English (or the mother tongue) be assessed in a different way, so that students can understand the importance of them per se?


3) Disadvantages – school can only teach us so much 

We have established the fact that school can lead us to become more skillful and learn more knowledge, ultimately to become a more reliable candidate in our dream job. However, to put it into perspective, there is only so much school can teach students of any age. I am trying to emphasise the practicality and pragmatic use of skills that will prepare us for life. The school curriculum most often allows students to learn from a course guide, but it rarely discusses concrete life survival skills. For example, how to manage our own bank account, how to get a proper job with compulsory interview classes (which is the ultimate goal of school – or at least should be) or even self-defence classes for the worst situations in those scary nights back home alone.


Furthermore, not everyone knows exactly what they want to achieve – whether they could already find a job placement or can really learn from books alone. In my own opinion, I believe in creating more opportunities for those who are not as suitable for books and find other ways to reach employment. It does not mean that one is smarter or less capable in anyway, it simply means to find job placements in possible firms to get a grasp of a general subject or to find another proper college for someone to become a chef or mason because they prefer something more hands-on.


4) How should schools around the world improve? Look at the best examples of the world 

For this section, I thought I would use two countries at both ends of the spectrum for comparison – Finland and South Africa. Firstly, I picked out some important points that Scandinavian schools were commended for: 1) children should not attend school until they are seven years old, 2) there should be few exams/no homework, 3) all teachers must be fully qualified with a minimum of master’s degrees and 4) teachers are allowed to teach what they desire. [2] The main problem here is that a lot of schools around the world start at around age four or five. According to many reports, this sense of ‘the sooner, the better’ tends to equate to a denture in natural development of children, as this logically means that, as they are very energetic and playful, would not concentrate as well. Consequently, there will not be as positive results when it comes to simple tasks like reading or arithmetic skills early on. [3, 4]


Concerning South Africa, this is a country which lacks the amount of choices available among the students. They only have 4 main subjects – 2 languages, life orientation and maths. Moreover, under the guidance of not fully educated teachers, who are usually ill-equipped to teach properly to a certain level, means frequent failing of important exams. To put this into perspective, the majority of the students attending schools in South Africa failed their exams and to acquire the minimum 30 per cent passing benchmark. [5] To rectify this, the students should be able to choose their own subjects carefully and realise what they are stronger or weaker at. Obviously, we also have to consider the problem of level of (un)employment, corruption, international conflicts, post-colonial past and diseases that affect these country so gravely – particularly in the case of the Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Afghanistan and Burkina Faso in that order. [6] As AIDS has been an ongoing problem in the African continent, many apt teachers deceased and were unable to continue. Should economic aid continue to be the most common way to try help ‘solve’ this issue? Little wonder that a lot of the brightest children leave for better futures elsewhere, leaving the area of expertise and intellectuals completely wide open.


Effectively, schools are beneficial to our society – but it is not necessarily the pathway to what we want to do in life. Personally, I think there should be an emphasis on the social aspect of it, rather than simply the academia. Sure, you could self-educate yourself, but it would probably be more pragmatic to attend schooling and have an equal opportunity. Moreover, many people accentuate too much on a proper education for future employment – when the problem of globalisation is already affecting the world to have increasingly more skills to accommodate to employers’ needs. Simply because we have a diploma demonstrating decent grades, do they grade reflect true knowledge? Or are we starting to regurgitate past facts? And then, why aren’t there more classes on survival skills – how to manage your bank account or self-defence in real-life situations?


Finally, I chose Finland and South Africa as the two main examples for comparison. Needless to say, the Western world already has the riches to provide its population with education for both sexes and to a minimum age. From Finland, other fellow Western countries can learn more about the age children should best start primary school so that they get the best possible quality teaching. However, South Africa, together with the rest of the African continent, have a harder task to alter – it is not simply a structural problem internally, but externally – with forces from the government and socio-political climate themselves. Hopefully, when I have the time – I will be back soon! 🙂