Does education empower?

I was in school as always, chatting with secondary schoolmates over Whatsapp when this topic came up.

Does education empower?

It’s a tricky question to answer. I’ve been thinking about it, for a good three days.

Of course, it is unlike me to simply say, Yes, education does empower. Especially when this topic is so very interesting.

My stand.

This topic is very controversial. There are many shades of grey that I will very likely overlook but who cares. I’m going to go ahead and say No, education does not empower.

Let me show you both sides I have been pondering on.

Education empowers:

The government always tells us students,

‘Study hard, get a good job for a good future.’ 

But now that I think of it, what we are studying for is, simply put, a piece of paper that certifies us a set salary once we start working. Example, an O level graduate would earn more than a PSLE graduate while a polytechnic graduate would earn more than an O level graduate and so on.

So I ask this question. What empowers us? Education or that piece of paper we slave the first half of our lives for or maybe more?

Also, education is only provided to those who pay money for it. In Singapore, it is mandatory to be brought up to a certain level of education. But if you want to go any higher, you’ll have to pay for it. So does education empower or is it money that empowers? Take tuition kids as an example. I’m not hating on them, I used to be one too. And in Singapore, bless your soul if you haven’t been to one because it is hell. Back to the point, what do we do in tuition classes? We pay money to be educated. You see where money comes in again? Better education is afforded by the rich. Or simply the more well off.

But why would anyone spend that kind of money? Because education promises more money. Everything is based on money. Money empowers education that empowers us. Education is merely a stepping stone to other riches.

But the less well off has a chance at higher education too. Take scholarships for example. The harder someone strives to get the best grades, the higher the chances he has to earn ‘free education’. This means it’s not about the money but the effort and brains right? Though I’d see this as a disgusting play out of a donkey being lured forward with a carrot, I have to admit that it has it’s advantages. It proves that even the less well off has a chance at higher education too. But do note that scholarships are open to all, rich and poor. A better off child with heaps of tuition has a higher chance of fairing well in examinations than a child with no tutoring at all. It is sad to know that all these encouraging articles of students who are awarded scholarships through their pain and efforts happen rarely. Why else would they be on the cover of a newspaper?

Education does not empower:

However, to me education does not empower. Instead it brainwashes people into doing things they do not want to do. Education these days turn people into aimless and goalless vessels working for the sole purpose of buying society’s ‘basic’ necessities such as cars and housing. Think about it for once. Why do we study? To get a good job. To save for a house we would probably spend the rest of our married lives working to pay off. To buy a car that drains us of our savings monthly. Sure, there are those who earn big bucks. They have their own companies and can easily pay for a house or two. But not everyone can be a big boss or a CEO of a company. There’s always going to be someone working admin and hey, their educated too. Are they as powerful as their superiors? No.

This is not counting those family businesses that pass the dictatorship of a company like a birthright. For all you know, the next CEO was only educated in business related fundamentals while his subordinates had taken pure sciences and advanced mathematics. But are they in more power than he is? No. In most cases, it is these people who end up without a job, on the streets and living with their parents. As funny as it sound, that’s reality for you.

I also feel that education, drains people of creativity and independent thinking, discouraging people from what they the board of education feels gives the individual ‘no future’. Education is a requirement that often stops people from pursuing their interests. For example, artists are required to learn statistical mathematics, pointless to their field of study. Furthermore, one must differentiate from education of the institutional kind or whether the education is  private or not. Institutional education has many faults. For example, sorting student according to their age and not their mental capacity. For instance, Primary 1 and 2 may be a waste of a child’s bubbly time because he or she has a higher mental capacity while other child may choose to wait another year or two before starting education due to theirs.

We aren’t all the same. We aren’t robots with a fixed software/mental capacity for people to decide if a mod/education was right for that batch of us. We differ from our personality, mentality all the way to our thumbprints and tongue prints. We aren’t machines yet we are being treated like one. We just don’t notice it because we are too used to everything. The moment we are born, we are taught our alphabet and launched into this messy rat race all of us are in now, most of the time running to no where in particular, simply yearning only to be first and the best in everything. Hence the loss of individuality and individual thinking.

What happens to the people who actually want to pursue what they want? They are forced into blindly weaving their safety net (education), together with other people who probably have no idea what they are doing, before being free to do what they want. From this point of view, education looks very much like a burden. A weight on the person’s shoulders. These people normally end up living bleak and dull lives, spending the rest of their lives in a cubicle, making love to a computer screen. It’s probably because of years of, in their opinion, pointless weaving, they grow tired and quickly lose interest of what they are chasing after. They are weary and what they are chasing after suddenly seems so far away. They decide that settling for a typical admin job would be good enough. They are old. Low on spirit and energy. They need to settle down. But can they can’t do what they want because they aren’t qualified enough. So they settle for what that safety net promises them. An admin job with a fixed pay, just like everyone else.

In conclusion, though there are pros and cons to how education empowers oneself I feel that education does not empower simply  because education is can be a conflict of interest at times and a hindrance to ones aspiration. Cynically thinking,I feel that education is a very well built sham to have people spend money whether they need it or not. It’s an excuse to make us all the same. Making us all easier to control and dictate. It’s a cruel waste of time at times and occasionally, a blessing in disguise. It really does depends on the individual if he has enough willpower and determination or not.

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