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Education systems vs learning systems

Having been at the helm of the education management of our beloved Republic for the past few years, has intuitively inspired me to often retrospect and meditate on both the meaning and functionality of education as a human capital genre.

This thought –provoking reflections culminated in my endeavour to bisect and analyse what is convectional termed education. I reflected on the genus of education juxtaposed with learning and came to a preliminary conclusion that; “Education is what people do to you while Learning is what you do for yourself.” Learning is more constructive than education and has a self-made human face and a personalised albeit inspiring meaning to the varied needs of individuals. Assuming I am correct, the need to concentrate on learning systems is therefore urgent. Arguably, learning is knowledge gained through inspirational experience for self-actualisation, and education is knowledge gained largely through teaching.

Education can be said to be well organised but consumable, whereas learning is something that is related to an individual’s perception but is redistributive. I have become increasingly convinced that there is a global paradigm shift underway. One in which technology is acting as a catalyst for an explosion in the production and publication of free learning materials accessible to all potential learners. Against this background the world is now concentrating on developing learning systems instead of mechanically investing in education systems. This is a wave we must catch on and utilise. It’s a wave needing the learning generation to be conscious of.

The current paradox is that while the price of education is raising exponentially, in the global arena,the cost of learning is actually decreasing — with millions of great learning materials freely available online. As we endeavour to transit from a resource based economy to a knowledge based economy, the process of testing and assessing against a standardised curriculum will increasingly be challenged by a new mutual opportunity to flexibly but conveniently learn anything we want, as well as choosing the content, time, teacher and device we want to learn in tandem with the contemporary knowledge landscape.The new knowledge setting of learning and training has advanced greatly since the 1980s, as more universal access to education and training has become available, particularly through eLearning. Our society need to tap on this olive branch.

Education is largely considered formal, a notion that shapes resources from the top down and largely from the government. Formalised education streams start with an institution that offers classrooms, teachers, and accreditation and then provides resources and groupings that meet that expressed goal in a

defined time under a defined condition for a set of candidates. On the other hand learning starts with the inner-self of individuals and communities desire for the public good. The desire to learn, a natural desire, is often constructed as informal learning and comes from individuals or groups with interests, who may organise and access resources in pursuit of that interest. This was shown by the Ujamaa farming Scheme in Tanzania and the Gizira Cotton Scheme in Sudan Post Independence. The two schemes intertwined production with learning at their own volition and became not only learned but a source of inspiration for the rest of Africa. 

Learning unlike conventional education is not what happens within the boundaries of the classroom but what happens within one's desire for a better life and public good.The current competitive socio-economic dynamics and resultant labor mechanics require a well-defined and refined high level but sustainable human capital development plan leveraging on a wide space of self-motivated learning consonant to our aspirations, intents and ideologies. It needs us to think outside the box and indeed outside the borders of educational classrooms.

It triggers us to find alternative but productive mechanisms of learning as communities as work organisations, as churches, and as communities without the pressure of the classroom and irrespective of our age. It is within the discourse of strategic management that failure to plan is planning to fail. In the same wavelength, it should be noted that successful people don’t do different things but do things differently.

It is time that as a society from different spheres we adopt lifelong learning for both our upward mobility as well as for our nation. In a world where discovery is more important than delivery because of research and innovation, we should always strive tofind remix in our human capital development leveraging on flexible learning atmosphere in addition to our formalized education system. One of the gurus of human capital development submitted thus:” Teaching in an education system is the best actor towards building a knowledge society but learning systems are the wisest and most sustainable investment towards both a knowledge society and a self-made society.”  (Patson Watts: 1989).

*Master Goya is the Assistant Minister of Basic Education. He is writing in his personal capacity not representing the government.

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