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Why we need to rethink education

Sigma School
09/05/2022 12:14PM

Education is the foundation on which a nation is built. It is through education that we assist children in the country unlock and fulfil their fullest potential, as productive members of the economy.

However, the modern educational system is just roughly 200 years old. Prior to it, formal education was largely limited to the elites. However, when the way we work changed as a result of industrialisation, universal schooling became necessary.

In the past, factory owners needed docile, compliant employees who would come up on time and follow their supervisors’ orders. Sitting in a classroom with a teacher all day was good preparation for that. The creation and promotion of universal education was aided by early businessmen. So maybe that’s how it used to operate.

Now that we are moving into a new, post-industrial era, it is worth reflecting on how our education evolved to suit factory work, and if this model still makes sense.

Think about that for a while, and try to imagine how different the education that you received throughout your life would be, if we learn like how humans were supposed to - Without expensive tuition fess, without going into debt, but collaboratively with groups of people who genuinely understood you as an individual and gave you the growth path that was optimally right for you, by doing and by practicing.

This is something I think about every day, so much that I’ve even set up a business just to test my theories, assumptions and hypothesis at Sigma School, it’s going strong and every day I’m still learning and striving to optimise the it for my students and community members.

Personally, I took the traditional path to education.

6 years in primary school, 5 years in public high school, 1 year in pre-university and finally wrapping it up with 3 more years for my university degree. So why am I being a hypocrite to be talking about this?

I chose my university degree in Accounting and Finance (Spoiler alert, my current role in tech and digital marketing have absolutely nothing to do with my degree) within 3 months after I graduated from my pre-university, not knowing anything about it. Heck, I was a Science student all my life. I did it for the sake of going to university, and I admit that’s all there is to it. And I know for a fact that a large majority of people who go to university go through the same cycle. We did it because we’re just following the current system.

I’m talking about this because I know the education system is broken, especially in the context of those trying to get jobs (which is pretty much everyone), instead of those going deep into academic research and become PhDs, and not enough people are talking about it or acknowledging it.

Here’s why.

The current model is fundamentally flawed

- The skills gap is widening. University graduates are struggling to get jobs after graduation. In Malaysia, more than 50% of university graduates could not get a job after they graduate from university. In Germany, for instance, less than 50% of university students end up graduating.

- The tuition debt in U.S. has reached <.58 trillion. That’s 12 zeros. Us, humans, were never designed to comprehend such large numbers figures so let me help you visualise this: “1 million seconds is about 11.5 days, 1 billion seconds is about 32 years while a trillion seconds is equal to 32,000 years“. That’s an insane amount of debt. And it’s growing every year, in most other countries in the world today.

- Tuition fees continue to go up every single year. Why is that the case? Who do you think pays for the campus, the lecturers, the administrative staffs, the vice chancellors and all of their additional perks like housing and automobile allowances, generous health and retirement benefits, and golden parachute agreements with lavish severance packages when they leave? It is you, the students who will be footing the bill, regardless of how well they ran the institution. This is money that should have been spent on innovating on the system and curriculum.

- Students receive little-to-no personal attention, and it’s easy for them to get lost in the crowd. Most universities have a lecturer to student ratio of probably 1:100 if you’re lucky. Your lecturers probably don’t even know who you are.

- Educators are not incentivised to innovate. Why? It’s simple. They get paid regardless of what happens to you, whatever happens after you graduate is fully, 100% on you. Educators are not held accountable at all! Why should they innovate when they get to secure their paycheck regardless? At the end of the day, it’s your fault you can’t get a job after you graduate. Or is it?

- To add salt to the injury, employers are actually desperate for good talents. They are willing to pay good money for talents, with our without university degrees. 70% of leaders in tech actually admitted to facing a huge shortage in tech talents who are able to add value and solve real world problems. To remain competitive, traditional companies are also loosening their requirements for jobs. Companies who don’t want to innovate on their hiring policies will risk losing out good talents to those who do.

Is it your fault you can’t get a job after you graduate?

Absolutely not. We don’t all come from the same upbringing, background nor do we all have the same goals. People learn differently and want to achieve different things in life.

The current education system imposes a one-size-fits-all solution to:

- Amy, who’s 27 years old, who just gave birth to her first child and is working a full-time job

- James, who’s 21 years old and has his university education fully funded by his parents and studying full-time

- Michael, who’s 18 years old and the sole bread winner in his family from an underserved community, working 8 hours a day to put food on the table for his family members

They all come from different backgrounds, have different needs and have different commitments. The educational approach to each of them should be personalised and optimised to their needs.

Educators need to be incentivised to innovate. Like all systems in the world, there has to be some form of check and balance. There has to be a scalable approach to personalise the learning experience, depending on the student.

“But we need a university degree to get a job, don’t we?”

The survivorship bias


Survivorship bias is the study of bullet holes on planes that survived enemy fire in order to construct more robust planes, but it ignores the fact that the bullet holes on the planes that didn’t make it back are what determine a plane’s resilience. In other words, the ones with bullet holes are the ones who survived and returned, not the other way around.

We often think that the education system works because we see successful people who went to universities. My thoughts? These successful people would have been successful either way. Yes, university might have given them the opportunity to network. But that’s about it. In terms of having skills for the job, Here’s a list of 10 Top CEOs who didn’t have a university degree.

Long story short, we have been fooled by a strong survivorship bias. That’s what they want us to believe. That’s what society has been trained to think, either by the media or by cultural appropriation, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Parents do not need to spend all their life-savings for their children’s education, students do not need to take up insane amounts of student debt and spend the next 10 years of their life paying it back.

There’s a better approach to education.

What’s next?

And how can we build an education system that best develops the adults of tomorrow? It’s not easy to build schools that will cater to the needs of the fast-changing world of the 21st century.

We will need to radically reform education and prove to the world that there is a different option. One that doesn’t involve expensive fees, outdated materials, and 4 years of your time. One that’s accountable to share the risk with you so you don’t need to pay if you don’t get a job.

But first, let’s take the first step by recognize that there is a major problem in the world’s education, together. One that we must solve for the future of the country and the world.

Be it in terms of cost to education, to the duration it takes for someone to upskill and get jobs or the financing model for students to afford their education. There are many ways we can go about this.

Thanks for reading till the end

If you like what you’re seeing and connect with my vision, join me at Sigma School, we’re at the forefront of this journey to innovate, rethink and reinvent the way education is done.

Here’s to redefining education. Cheers!

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