Is centralised education a stealthy censorship tool?

Governments have control over what and how children learn. Are they abusing this? Source:

In centralised education systems around the world, students are examined on fact memorisation and regurgitation in exams. Textbooks provide a one-way ticket to exam success, but critical thinking and creativity are left firmly at the station.

First, in extreme cases, textbooks are criticised for omitting topics to propagate political or religious ideologies, as was the case in Turkey last year. Even in more liberal education systems, such as the United Kingdom, textbooks are written by an elite group who do not represent the experiences of the majority. At the very least, this will produce students with little to contribute to society.

Second, the skills needed in global workforces and local communities are quickly changing as technology races forward.

Instead of going to school for 18 years to become an obedient worker who will willfully complete meaningless tasks for money and a side portion of self-worth, machines are being manufactured to act, think and essentially, be like us, and will replace us.

When this future becomes a reality, it will be quickly apparent how current education has failed students.

Humans are naturally social, curious and creative animals.

But, like a horse whose spirit is broken to be ridden, education stamps out these natural qualities, to prepare us for the heavy saddle of employment.

Once technology has fulfilled its potential of streamlining our economies, humans will be liberated from meaningless work in favour of creative avenues that automated machines can’t complete, such as social and emotional labour like counselling, art and music.

So why are governments not looking to change the type of learning to meet these changes?

We often view Internet restrictions and media control as censorship that compromises human freedom. But perhaps education is the most stealthy censorship of all.

If children are not learning how to critically evaluate information, question facts, form arguments and debate with each other, they have little chance to question their own rights as citizens, their place in society or the truth and scope of information available to them.

Education is essentially a tool that can be used to empower or impede youth. Offer knowledge, perspective and awareness and you will empower a generation. But take this away, and you silence them.

Take Iran, for example. In January, Iran’s Supreme Leader banned the teaching of English language in public primary schools to limit “Western cultural invasion” following protests against the authority’s regime.

This is a stark example of how education can emancipate people – and how governments can use it to shut this down. Through strict curriculum content, emphasis on accepting facts rather than understanding theories and implementing obedience, control can be maintained.

Textbook, classrooms

Textbooks provide a one-way ticket to exam success, but critical thinking and creativity are left firmly at the station. Source: Shutterstock

In every country with a centralized education system, the government has total control over the outlook and skills children learn. Of course, the Internet access most countries have allows children to access a wealth of information, but for the first few years of a child’s life, it is unlikely they will look beyond their teachers and textbooks to learn historical facts or scientific theories.

But what can be done to challenge these education policies to allow the global youth to gain true knowledge and become valuable members of a changing society?

Clearly, the answer is not going to be the government. Until structural unemployment becomes a reality and governments are financially impacted through benefit claimants and lost output, it is unlikely they will pay any attention.

Matters need to be taken into the hands of the people. This is easier said than done in countries that are committed to maintaining a sensitive narrative – but even in countries such as Iran, English can still be taught in private schools and independent tutoring.

Through teachers truly embodying their role as educators and imparting knowledge, and, more importantly, understanding to their classes, there can be hope.

Of course, curriculum exists and exams need to be passed, but if teachers can look beyond what is necessary to what is really needed in education, the global youth still have a chance to survive tomorrow’s world.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of Study International.

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