Video and transcribe available below

Dr Ro’s thoughts on the schooling system

Hey folks, it’s Dr Ro. I hope you are well. 

I’ve had a strong view on this for probably a decade and a half now and bear in mind I’ve come through the conventional education system, which is basically getting a degree going onto get a PhD. I climbed the corporate ladder. I went through the whole monkey climb thing, and over the years, I really started to question was this really an appropriate preparation for me as I went into my career? 

As I look at this now in my 50s and look at my kids who are obviously going through that ladder in my mind, 100% we have a serious problem with our education system. Is the education system and the schooling system broken? 

I actually think it is, again, it’s just a personal view. I just want to share with you some things to maybe reflect on as I talk about this. The first question I would ask you to consider is what is the future looking like for your children? 

I don’t mean the age of 15 or 16. I’m talking about, five, 10, 15 years from now, what does the landscape look like? That’s the question I ask myself and when I grew up I was told to study hard and I come from an Asian background. It was to get a good job, get a good education and do engineering, optometry, architecture so in an Asian background that was the thing we were taught to do. Here’s the challenge: we are living in an education system designed way back then. 

If you go back even prior to 40s and 50s, go back to the Victorian period education system crept. Think about uniforms. We want children to be unique and individual, and yet we put them all in the same uniform so they look and feel the same. That in itself is a contradiction. 

The landscape for how a child grows up into the world now is not the old system of get a good job for life, getting good degree results, you will be streamlined and if you get an A, B you’re classified in this category if you get a C you’re average. I think our children right now are struggling enough with what’s been going on, you put the pressure look at the teenage years at the moment were getting high levels of suicide rates, self-harming rates at alarmingly high levels. 

Stress levels and anxiety levels are kicking into our children and it’s my personal belief that it’s the pressure being brought on children to perform at certain levels too early. The schooling systems move from teachers who are passionately wanting to teach the children to inspire them to fit their kids into certain tick boxes and conform to OFSTED or which country you’re from in order for them to meet certain requirements and then enable them to pass those requirements. 

If a child doesn’t perform on a specific day and exam, one moment in their life can have a direct impact on the self-worth, self-confidence, but also how people review them and reflect on them. I went for an interview with an engineering company and I can still remember the gentlemen’s name but he was a Cambridge graduate, director of the company and here’s me got a PhD which got highly recommended and he was going through and this is the classic ego male pushback here I come in am I a possible threat? I sat there and I still remember that I was 25, 26 years of age, that’s like 30 years ago and I still remember him leaning forward and saying, you got a C in maths. 

I think I got an A, two B’s and a C but the point was he said you’ve only got a C in maths. Even then I had this kind of real steel because I’d been studying personal development by then for about six years. I’d been in front of audiences for six years and I was really self-involved in that respect, and I said to him, what has that got to do anything with this interview here? 

The fact I took an exam seven or eight years ago and I didn’t get an A. That is maybe what you are, you’re bypassing the PhD and focusing on the C. What’s the reason you’re asking me that question? He got ruffled and said I want to find out how you feel your maths is, I said how do you feel your maths is? I’ve just got through a four-year PhD and happy with the result of that, give me a task I can apply myself to if I can’t find the answer, I’ll find someone that can help with the answer.

This is the problem we’re faced with that underlying judgement that happens to our kids. I personally think we need to develop a new set of rules for how kids grow and evolve at a young age and what we actually teach them. Do they really need to be studying incredibly old historical periods of time, for example, the First World War, the Second World War, or even the period before that? 

Maybe conceptually for a short time, but there are even more modern day wars and things that have come up I think are more appropriate and how can we learn from those things, evolve in such a way to avoid them? Are there certain areas of maths, for example, that our children don’t need? 

More importantly, more than anything else, is it provides our kids with a contextual sense of learning? In other words, when a child is learning are they being given the context of what they’re learning? 

Instead of compartmentalising all the learning to different lessons it’s all integrated in such a way where actually it’s progressive. If you tell me what type of education is out there, there are conventional schools, private schools and progressive schools. 

I don’t think the systems provide our children with enough context and make it applicable to what the world is today and that’s my view. Secondly, are we teaching our kids to be self-reliant, or are we teaching our kids to simply conform to a system and if they don’t pass those exams they get bad results? The challenge we’ve got is fear of missing out. 

I meet so many parents obsessed with getting exam results when I say why do you want your kids to get good exam results? So that they can go and then get a good career or university. And you believe in the job system? Well actually we’re looking to get out of our profession or we’ve gone self-employed. 

So you’ve gone along the career ladder and now changed direction and are self-employed and doing something totally different and yet you want your kids to go do the same thing?

We are measuring ourselves into an old system that is broken to start with. Finally I’m going to ask you to reflect on whether your children are genuinely happy? 

Look at your children, ask yourself a simple question: are your children happy? Are they coming back and joyous about what they’re learning? Do they understand the context of what they’re learning about the bigger picture of the world in the future? Do they see how it ties to making a sense of purpose in life, inspiration, being mindful, to reflect, meditative and having emotional development?

Or do they feel they’re just pursuing the process to keep mum and dad happy, teachers happy just to pass exams? The minute we address that question we address fundamentally a much more important and deeper question which is how can we educate our children to be more whole? 

To be grounded, emotionally developed, spiritually developed have a greater sense of themselves, a sense of purpose. 

What makes them passionate so they can pursue those things instead of doing what they’re told to do to conform to a set of rules to get a job which at some point they’ll change anyway. 

Is it broken? Hell yes.

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