Thursday, August 30, 2012

Leaving school to get serious about education

Imagine you have an 11 year old child.

How many useful things are out there that would be beneficial for your child to learn in the 7 years before becoming an adult? In other words what should be part of a really useful education after your child has learned basic reading/writing and math?

Let's brainstorm a couple of random things that might be useful:

  • On the professional side, soft skills like management, teamwork, presenting, selling, negotiating, problem solving, time management, self organization, project management and leadership would be handy.
  • Computer skills like operating office software, using data bases, programming, blind typing and video editing would often be useful as well.
  • From a personal growth perspective dealing with rejection/failure, learning to deal with different personalities, overcoming fears, receiving and giving feedback, dealing with stress, responsibly handling alcohol, nikotin and other drugs, understanding risks and celebrating successes likely wouldn't harm either.
  • Work experiences and visiting other countries teach many of the skills above. The more time is spend on diverse experiences, the better.
  • On a practical level planing a trip, organizing personal finances, repairing things at home, building things, operating house hold appliances, car maintenance and handling bureaucracy come to mind.
  • Surely knowledge about business, science, history, languages, your body and your mind would be useful too.

The list above hardly scratches the surface of the many areas and aspects of knowledge and skills that would be useful. It just serves to illustrate that there is a huge amount of stuff out there that would be useful to learn.

Of course your (imaginary?) child can't learn everything that's useful. But as a parent you probably would want your child to learn the most important things and as much of the rest as possible. So how could your child go about learning all that stuff?

We've already discussed that traditional school education is not teaching much useful stuff. So your child would have to learn most of those things outside of school. But wait! That would mean cutting down most of your child's free time and play time. That would suck, certainly from the perspective of your child. Hopefully your child is imaginary otherwise this would get you in serious trouble.

This is the point where most parents give up. There is no time for so many extra things in addition to school - no matter how useful they might be. Case closed.

...Unless you dare to touch the holy school. From a rational perspective, school is a giant waste of time to learn just a few useful things. Since we're in urgent need for time to teach useful stuff, let's get rid of this waste.

Nice theory, you might say, how does this translate into real life action? Well, lets find out:

My son didn't go to school for one week in May, but did a test week of useful education instead. Since I'm working full time I could only stay at home on Monday to get him started. Tuesday to Friday he was on his own working on a list of 6-7 30min learning tasks that I gave him for each day. He started learning:

Results? He successfully completed more than 80% of the tasks and found it much more interesting than school.

Since the test week was a big success overall, we decided to stop wasting time in school and start learning useful things. This September 3rd, my son's first year of useful education will begin! Any bets if we'll make the 1st year? Stay tuned :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How useful has your education been?

Make a list of all the knowledge and skills that you've learned in your education, but only those that have proofed to be really useful in your life. Now compare this to the entirety of things you've been taught in education. For most people I've talked to the comparison is pretty devastating. Some say 20% of their education was useful, some say 10%. The longer people think about it, the lower the percentage usually gets as they remember more useless things they've learned during their education.

The single most useful element of an education is usually a printed sheet of paper that states that you have completed the education. It's useful because it might get you your job interview. But it's almost useless once you have the job. What if you could get your job interview without that printed sheet of paper? Then your whole education would be a giant waste of time. Because without this paper, all that is left from your education is the 10% useful stuff, that you could learn in a different way much easier and faster.

As I have a 10-year-old son, I'm most concerned about school education. School curricula are designed by central government planning. With central government planning failing in so many areas, is it any wonder that usefulness of school education is around 10%? Most private schools are not much better, as they largely teach the same curriculum as public schools - only teaching it slightly more efficient.

Imagine an education with an 80% usefulness for your later life. An education that proudly could wear the title "useful education". Creating such an education is the mission of

What are some of the core elements to achieve 80% usefulness?

  • Making a long list of potentially useful knowledge and skills. Useful for professional and/or personal life.
  • All potentially useful knowledge pieces and skills have to be checked ruthlessly on their likelihood to be useful in later life. Knowing how to calculate with irrational numbers has a very small likelihood to be useful in one's life. Learning blind typing has a very high likelihood to be useful during one's professional and/or private life.
  • For each education piece the most efficient learning method (based on the available resources) needs to be identified and used.
  • The education needs to document it's achievements and make it likely to get that job interview.

Follow the journey of that started in May 2012 when my son skipped a week of school to test drive a more useful kind of education.