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Education Vs Learning:

Most young minds, during the proverbial rough and tumble of their teenage days, and some prodigal minds in their pre-adolescent days face a standard phase of disappointment in their self. A dark time of despair, when a constant question takes up every inch of our mind space:

What is it that I’m doing?

Why am I doing what I’m doing?

It is during these times, a cerebral debate opens up: Education vs Learning! Here’s a slight insight into that topic, from my perspective, based on personal experiences and external accounts.

At face value, education and learning mean almost the same things. Some glorify these terms as pursuit of knowledge and some stick to the normal meaning of gaining requisite intellectual know-how to get gainful employment. But are these really as narrow as that? Does the debate of education vs learning end at those points? Is employment-centric know-how all that is there to education or learning? No. And that’s where we woefully fall short.

A comprehensive definition of these two things is out of my scope honestly. However, somebody has put forward a beautiful way of looking for the comparison of these as:

“Education gives you accreditation after an exam. Learning is the accreditation for the exam.”

Thus, formal education boils down to the concept of gaining knowledge into a certain topic, getting assessed by a certain prescribed metric and gain accreditations for the same, which is what we all are striving hard for, after all. Be it school exams, boards, JEE or any entrance exam. Accreditation could mean a certain percentile, college seat, etc. Much as I’m tempted to write something critical about education as such, my pen hesitates. For I know, education, in and of itself, is not only important but also essential. Education, formal or otherwise, presents this universal loop of knowing something and getting appreciation of that fact. This loop is necessary for human existence as all our lives depend on it. We mug up answers to get grades, we work our backs off in offices to get appraised, etc. It’s this primal driving force that keeps us going and education is the very embodiment of that principle.

Learning, on the other hand, is a deeper concept. If education is a loop, learning is an endless ladder or a bottomless well. Learning is a sort of abstraction of our curiosity. Here, we don’t learn something to be applauded for it. Learning craves no attention, no recognition. It’s just about the thirst to know stuff, a general curiosity to get to know things, which may or may not be in the purview of education as described earlier. In principle, learning is supposed to be the goal of the educational framework. The ‘pursuit of knowledge’ and related fluff comes close to this characterisation of learning. Learning is about sifting a topic with a fine toothed comb, unravelling the delicious intricacies of that topic rather than just a superficial know-how.

Today, the general trend is that the cost of education is on an upward swing, what with the rising fees of educational institutions. On the contrary, learning has become virtually free, with whole repositories of information available on the web on every minute thing. However, this in no way discredits education. Education is about the utilitarian viewpoint of life whereas learning is more towards metaphysical. And both these aspects are crucial to an individual’s life. It’s a pity of our times that we either view them as same or as complete opposites! Here, I believe a middle ground is the ideal scenario. Education system must be so modelled that learning and not subsequent accreditation becomes the cornerstone of formal education. An amalgamation of these two entities will provide to us an dependable educational system, which neither produces mechanistic robots nor individuals judged by differing yardsticks with no clear specialisation or credentials. Such a world will have individuals learning something out of pure interest and applying that very same thing in their jobs. Such individuals are a statistical rarity in our world, something I clearly find unpleasant.

Some readers however will cry foul of me. I’ll be accused of providing a utopian solution to a real-world solution. So, for us ‘realists’ (yeah, me too 😉 ), the solution is to follow learning over education. Essential as it may be, education in today’s scenario tends to narrow down one’s mind. Knowledge as an aim takes backseat while more material aspects like a degree take precedence. Learning on the other hand gives us a well-rounded perspective to everything in life. Most importantly, pursuing education, learning takes a beating but pursuing learning, one actually enhances education! If learning is our aim, educational goals mostly follow as side benefits.

Education vs Learning: The practicalities of the situation

Thus, after all, we realize that learning is the real deal. Education is actually a more formalised and standardised form of learning, which has fallen into a degree of disorder, but still retains a large chunk of its importance in our lives. So, the verdict’s out! Learning should be our aim, education will follow as a logical conclusion, enabling us to live intellectually satisfying lives coupled with gainful employment and a more refined form of society in general. Why, Utopia doesn’t seem too implausible, does it?

The education vs learning debate is an eternal one; however, there are things we can do to make sure our education system takes the right approach.

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