Does Academic Education Help You Solve Real Life Problems?

graduateYou may have had the experience of knowing school friends whose academic performance was dismal in their earlier years, however despite this, they have gone on to achieve phenomenal financial success later in life.

You are left speechless as they share their success story with you. You distinctly remember many instances when the teacher reprimanded them on their poor performance and predicted a bleak future after their low grades in class.

Their behaviour was most likely just as poor as their grades. The teacher may have even predicted they would end up dead or in jail! Yet, so many years later, that prediction turns out to be completely untrue and you are left with more questions than answers.

You suddenly find yourself thinking about how effective all those years of education actually were. Does the formal education system truly recognise potential talent or its ability to develop skills in solving real life problems?

Well, I had a similar feeling, on encountering one such friend. I have to admit, I was a little surprised at the answers I arrived at when I asked myself this question.

I would like to share them here with you:

Structure vs. Chaos

While you go through school or university education, you are constantly reminded of the importance of thoroughly completing the structured curriculum within a defined time frame. This is reiterated day in day out, by teachers and lecturers of every discipline.

You learn predictability and how to follow guidelines. However, in the business and in life, unpredictability is the norm. Your formal education prepares you for finding solutions to problems which are expected. This is completely contradictory to reality!

Outstanding students, who perform well in the organised and methodical schooling system, do not necessarily manage well in chaotic real-life situations. In these instances, structure and method give way to gut instinct and swift decision-making.

On the other hand, mediocre academic performers may possess great talent outside of the formal education system. These people often use their intuition to assess circumstances practically and solve problems with out-of-the-box thinking. For example, Richard Branson is dyslexic and dropped out of school at 16!

Error vs. Experiment

While inside the academic system, you are encouraged to provide a single correct answer to a question and discouraged to experiment with solutions. You are conditioned in school that errors are bad and you should avoid making them if at all possible.

However, interviews with highly successful people reveal they have learned as much from their failures as they did from their successes, if not more. When you develop an aversion to making errors, you actually exclude an essential part of the real-life learning process.

Some people naturally want to continuously reinvent models and identify opportunities. We actually get enjoyment from the process of solving problems, not just from finding a solution. We have a burning curiosity to experiment, irrespective of the outcome.

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