Updated 11 July 2018

What is Education?

“Education is what you have after you have forgotten everything you learned”.

Education, in and of itself, is a pre-requisite for each and every one of us. Without it, our lives may amount to nothing as education is the key to our knowledge, learning and development processes.

 Student Education

The important things you learn in student education are

  • how to obtain information
  • how to organise information
  • how to present information.

It does not really matter whether your education is in Chemistry or Law. The skills you are learning in student education are transferable skills. Employers often talk of “graduateness” – the ability to think and write and speak like a graduate.

If you make a literature search on the Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline, and then make a presentation about it, you are exercising much the same skills as a lawyer reviewing and presenting about Clink v. Haddock (search A P Herbert: “Port to Port”).

If you can do either while keeping a straight face, you have learned yet another skill. They are both spoofs.

Student Education: Pros and Cons

Student education is probably the most cost effective method of mass education.

A person can in theory learn at home. The costs of providing good laboratory facilities, a good library, or a superbly equipped studio are beyond the means of most people. You club together with other students to provide the facilities communally. At an old university the library was started by people who are now long dead. You will contribute as a student and probably as an alumni, and the work will be carried on by people whose parents are not yet born.

Student education is also about interaction. You will learn much from your fellow students. Some of it will be accurate.

You will develop your skills learning who to believe, who to trust, and who to avoid. You will learn to sum up people.

One favourite class exercise in student education is where the professor says to the class that each student must choose from all the students in the class one person who will pay you 10% of their earned income for the rest of their life. You look at everyone in the class differently. Which ones are not going to go very far, are not going to live long, and which ones will be the high earners?

If you had been in the same class as Warren Buffet or Bill Gates, would you have chosen them?

What to do at University

You may be lucky and have interaction with your professors. In some universities the professors are involved with the students, and in some universities the professors are not even seen in your first year.

The professors can often boost your career by suggesting you to prospective employers, or networking on your behalf. Try not to upset them!

People used to say they were “reading for a degree”. In other words they were reading around a subject, rather than just what they were told to read.

At one time I was studying the politics of the USSR.

I looked at a list of Politburo members. It occurred to me to look at the eldest and the youngest members, read up their biographies, and to try to imagine how they would interact, given an age difference of 40 years.

One was an Old Bolshevik who had killed people all his life. The other was an engineer who had managed building a dam in India. Both were in the Politburo, working together.

I really regret that so many students short-change themselves by limiting themselves to enough knowledge to pass the exams rather than acquiring mastery of a subject. They frequently do not read enough of anything and do not read widely.

At University, during the exams, I sat with friends drinking coffee. One of the History students was discussing Fascism under Mussolini. I mentioned the murder of Matteoti. Then I had to explain to the History student who Matteoti was (He was a leader of the Italian Left).

Then my friend said “But Charles you are not reading History”. I said “No – but I have been reading!”.

Student education is not just about learning your subject. You are networking, having enjoyable experiences, and learning about life. Even your part time jobs can teach you a lot if you treat them as exposure to the human zoo. If they relate to your future career, they may help your future career hugely

Manage Your Time

The second most important thing you learn is how to manage your time. You have to learn how to maximise your effectiveness. Study when it is best for you to study. Exercise when that is best for you. Get your act together and go for that good degree.

If you are doing that, what will you shed? How important will it be to you in 10 years whether you earned a really good degree or not? Conversely, in 10 years time how important will it be that you spent the equivalent of 6 months income on beer over a 4 year period?

I am not against beer, or all night parties, or abseiling. Everyone needs some recreation. The important question is how much time and effort do they take up? Looking back, was it worth it? Student education can and will improve both your prospects and your journey through life.