Kedric gives his thoughts and criticisms on the dogma of formal education.


“It’s a ‘dog-eat-dog’ world.”

I remember the saying (or more like rants from parents, rather) that in order to be successful in life, one would need a degree or something higher to land a successful job, and that people who sleep begging by the streets are lazy school dropouts. I’m not implying that any of these are true although, to a certain extent, it does play a part in what I am about to say.

Parents often want what is best for their children, in the hopes that they wouldn’t have to endure too much hardship to be successful or “rich”. Usually, this makes it a must to send their kids to college and university despite putting themselves through more sweat, blood and tears. It is a noble act – that I have to agree – but is it the best way to act for the sake of one’s children? Is there a better way? Or is it simply how the system functions?

I believe that parents in the Generation Y category are brought up in a way which taught them that obtaining a degree would promise them a better job and, in return, larger stashes of cash to bank in each month (which isn’t necessarily false). They can’t be blamed because, after all, those were the very values taught to them and which they would pass down to their kids. However I feel that at times, a degree is quite overrated and not as significant as it used to be back then. Almost everyone has one right now and it’s nothing special, really.

Is success just about making money and nothing else? Something rarely taken into account is the financial cost of funding higher education. Let’s take an approximate figure of RM80,000 to complete a four-year degree locally. Truthfully speaking, not everyone is able to get a scholarship; neither are they all sons and daughters of millionaires. Parents would then turn to study loans – which may all sound good and nice now, but things may turn ugly come repayment time.

Imagine spending four years studying your butt off then graduating with RM80, 000+ of debts, while having a job which pays only RM3000 a month. Let’s say you devote half of your income monthly (which is highly unlikely) to pay off your debts. This would mean you’d need approximately four and half years for repayment, notwithstanding interest rates and inflation. Picture yourselves as horses dragging your feet to pull the masters in the carriage – an illustration of debt repayment – not a pretty sight, huh?

Besides that, formal education also indirectly embeds in us something I would like to call the “Malaysian Dream”. Now before calling me a copycat and thinking it’s the Malaysian version of The American Dream, let me explain myself. The “Malaysian Dream” is simply a process which begins at our birth; from there, we go through the schooling phase which includes elementary, primary and secondary schooling. Next is college and university where we do crazy stuff and burn the midnight oil when exams are approaching. We then graduate and start working, find a partner, get married and have kids. We pass on the same experiences to our children and then go back to dust.The cycle continues.

One might think there is nothing wrong with this kind of living, but allow me to highlight its problems. In the routine cycle mentioned above, nothing significant has been accomplished in our lifetime: we have not impacted the lives of others and or changed society in any way. We are just another number in the population of seven billion on this planet; we die as just another statistic. I’m not saying that we who pursue formal education can’t impact others; I’m saying that most formal education places too much emphasis on the notion that, in order to be successful, one must be rich.

Because of this, our primary focus of chasing wealth consumes us so much that we don’t have time left for anything else. What happens to being the “salt and light of the earth” (as mentioned in the Bible)? If this is the life we choose to lead, we might as well not exist. Because after all, we are just another insignificant one in the seven billion because that’s what we choose to be, eh? Having blood pumping through our veins and air filling up our lungs isn’t living; it’s being alive.

Living is going out and impacting others, achieving your dreams and helping others achieve theirs. Living is about changing lives.

Okay okay, enough of bashing and heavy criticism of formal education. It also most certainly has many benefits. Sure, formal education produced some of the world’s richest and talented people, but that is not what I want to touch on. What I want to touch on is passion. I feel that the only need for formal education is pursuing something we’re passionate about. Having a passion renders us emotionally attached to our subject of pursuit.

When one is passionate about what he or she does/studies, it is without a doubt that the hardest work and best dedication is given throughout the entire period of doing so. With that being said, studying a course solely for the reason to please your parents or to land the highest paying job when you graduate simply won’t cut it. In such a case, the entire time spent in studies is simply heading to class listening (or not) to the lecturer, trying to cram as much information as possible and just spitting it all back out during exams.

This does not benefit us in any way upon graduation, except maybe for the piece of paper we call a certificate. Putting it into an analogy: studying is like eating. When someone studies for the sake of studying, he is simply putting food (information) in his mouth and during exams just regurgitates everything. The person does not gain anything from it because he doesn’t digest it. What he gives out is vomit which all goes to waste, and vomit is always the same no matter whose mouth it comes from.

On the other hand, studying what we are passionate about causes us to harbour an emotional attachment to it. In this sense, when we take in food (information) it will be thoroughly digested and assimilated in our bodies – making it a part of us, making us better. Furthermore, the information we give out will be like our poop (don’t mind my language, as there’s no better way to put it). No poop is the same (don’t believe me? Try making some comparisons next time), as some can digest better than others, making each person’s poop definitely unique. Our output of what we studied will be very much like our “poop” – unique and different in every way – not just some modified information which everyone is capable of giving out. It will be personalized by each and every one of us – something others can appreciate

When the topic of formal education is talked about, people often have one thing in mind – success. Thinking about being successful is not a sin, but what defines your success? Everyone’s definition of success is different. For me, it’s simply doing what makes me happy and spending time with persons who make me happy. Having your own definition of success is vital, for if we allow others to define our success we’d end up like everybody else – as just another insignificant statistic. One last thing to keep in mind is that, before heading on the long journey of formal education, take some time off and dig deep down into your heart. Don’t rush; find what you are really passionate about, and then do what you are passionate about.

It is just as Confucius once famously declared: “Choose a job you love and you never have to work a single day.”

Kedric is a writer, consultant and lover of lifting heavy stuff. Kedric is on a never ending quest for knowledge. His mission is to help people grow stronger, and kick some serious ass in life and he does...