Educating the Human Person

Young studentWhen I was small my parents always claimed that I was the luckiest kid in town because I was given everything that the other kids had. At that point in time, learning English was in fashion and I even had a private tutor in English. Obviously, it was a luxury and my parents were so proud of that.

I remembered how much I was struggling in those English classes to keep my mind off the playground where my friends were having so much fun. Also, I liked to draw but I never got a chance to get close to crayons and water colours except in a few art classes where they asked me to fill in blank animals with colours or to copy patterns. I always failed. I wanted a blank paper without anything in it to draw or do whatever I like with colours, not a set of images and pictures that give me a precise instruction to follow.

I look at kids these days and see how they struggle the same way as I do, though in different contexts.

They were given not only language classes but also music, dance, and singing, etc. My cousin’s timetable was filled with classes ranging from the sciences to the arts. My aunt’s reason is that, now he’s still small and he has time for all these, but when he gets to grade 4 or 5 he will have to focus on Math and other Sciences. So his childhood is evolving around a timetable filled with schedules. The only time he gets to go to the playground, which is the place he enjoys most, is after class, before dinner. What’s more pitiful is that by the time he’s old enough to enjoy those music classes, school will start and his mom will rearrange the timetable so that he has more time for Math and Sciences.

Yet, he’s still considered to be very lucky to have a chance to learn to draw or play an instrument. There are so many children out there who never have the resources to do so and they will spend the rest of their lives wishing that they could.

This is a persistent problem that happens all over the world, especially in Asia, where our intelligence is measured by how well we learn Math and Science and how high our test scores are. Those who are blessed with talents to draw, sing, or dance, among other hobbies, are often doomed in formal schools where their abilities are viewed as a waste and their brains are viewed as problematic.

“Great are those who triumph in Science” – this has always been a motto of the formal education system, a system where every child is put in a mass production line to produce bankers, accountants, engineers, doctors, etc., who are directly involved in the creation of goods and services. A system where creativity is subdued and conformity is compelled.

This is a system that focuses on a narrow vision of market supply and demand, where the human person is seen as a resource to drive the market.

In the 20th century, when mass production booms and capitalization flourishes, engineering was favored and there was a huge amount of engineering graduates every year. In the 21st century, capitalization takes deeper root in a stronger banking system and global trading. Today, we produce more business graduates than ever before.

In 2013, financial crisis is threatening many countries to default. Case after case of insider trading and financial frauds are reported.

What happened to those business graduates? They’re unemployed.

Society is made up of individuals, and they are the ones who are running and creating the market. We shouldn’t produce bankers because market needs more bankers, but rather we should produce bankers because there are kids who want to be bankers!

Hence, education needs to give attention to every student and allow them to flourish in whatever way they wish. The focus should be on how good the education system is at nurturing each child and making him a leader, an entrepreneur, and a world-class professional in whichever field he chooses.

By: Pham Minh Nguyet, an intern at WYA Asia Pacific