Formal Education is Indespensable to Management of Modern Society
The Daily Nation and the Star newspapers on June 6, 2014, carried an article in which Mr. David Sonye sneered at the presumed capacity of formal education in developing the leadership competencies needed to manage society.
He claimed formal education had supplanted indigenous knowledge that “kept our communities thriving through generations” saying that the proposed bill requiring prospective legislators in National and county legislatures to have University qualification was misguided.
In principle, possession of post secondary education does not automatically confer leadership competencies to students. However, to dismiss the place of University education in nurturing the knowledge, skills and aptitudes society needs to manage its institutions is shocking.
Modern society has become increasingly complex. The variables and complexities modern Governments and their respective institutions are forced to grapple with are highly technical.
The indigenous knowledge that Sonye deified does not have the insights and technical knowledge that should enable an individual to analyse, discern, or understand the policy problems involved in any situation.
And one cannot properly solve or resolve the policy problems and challenges before him/her without the habits of thinking and reasoning that University Education imparts or should impart to its students.
Quality post Secondary and University Education at its best education, equips individuals with the skills and substantive knowledge that allows them to define and to pursue their own goals, and also allows them to participate in the life of their community as full-fledged, autonomous citizens.
Anthropologist E.B. Taylor defined culture as "that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, customs, and many other capabilities and habits acquired by...[members] of society."
Formal education introduces its students to the body of knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, law, customs and other capabilities that previous and contemporary generations have acquired/developed for their safety and well being.
The indigenous knowledge that the writer glorified had and still has its place in the African society. It did to the mind, heart and spirit of every African child in every generation what formal education ideally does to the minds, hearts and spirit of every modern student in every generation, who is attending or has attended secondary and University education.
Both formal and informal educations transmit certain knowledge, beliefs, attitudes and habits of thinking and behavior to generation to the next but with certain fundamental differences and distinctions.
Informal education catered for small communities and some of the values and skills they respectively propagated were not only limited to that community, but also narrow and jingoistic in orientation.
Needless to say here, the world this system of education sought to interpret was extremely elementary in their social, economic and political organization.
Modern world is bewilderingly complex. So complex that even highly educated people, particularly those who had early specialization at during their undergraduate education find frighteningly herculean to understand.
This is particularly true in the technical operations of Government and any institution—be it public or private institutions.
Notwithstanding the complexity, at bottom, the issues that face any institution—public or private—are universal. Embodied in modern education, in liberal education, are ideals and ideas by which contemporary life and society is knowingly and unknowingly governed. The bank or storehouse of this knowledge and ideals are the great books that have shaped successive civilizations—books written by great thinkers who have deeply thought about life and it should be lived and managed.
Apart from depicting a simple a simply and largely idyllic (which modern society is not), indigenous knowledge was largely oral in nature. It was transmitted from mouth to mouth; through interpersonal communication channels, unlike the formal education we have today. The sage philosopher could not transmit his/her wisdom to the four winds.
Modern education has been stored in physical artifacts such as the book, scientific equipment and an army of people we call teachers, lecturers and tutors.
Teachers, tutors and lecturers not only indentify for us the appropriate books that can help us understand certain facets of knowledge; they also digest or simplify some of these ideas for students before they can fruitfully interact with the books the great thinkers wrote.
American Statesman, Adlai Stevenson defined education(formal as well as informal) is the transmission of ideals as well as knowledge, the cultivation of the ability to distinguish the true and the good from their counterfeits, and the wisdom to prefer the former to the latter.”
This kind of education provides a perspective, self discipline, judgment, courage and power to master the environment.
It is the peculiar function of modern education to cultivate the intellects and communication abilities of learners so that, upon assumption of duties as citizens and as formal leaders of institutions society has at its disposal, to deploy their minds, hearts and spirits to manage the duties society entrusts them with, more effectively, efficiently an honestly.
The gargantuan investments the Government is making in providing education is borne of the conviction that education is the best tool to develop the capacities he country needs to manage public affairs more effectively and efficiently.
Western Countries and middle income countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia have leapfrogged in economic development largely because of the investment they have made in education—academic and technical and vocational education and train.
Instead of sneering at the efficacy and beneficence of formal education, critics such as Mr. Sonye, who has evidently himself had formal education, should suggest ways and means of reforming formal education institutions to effectively serve the needs and aspirations o the Country better.
Kenya is facing exciting public policy challenges and opportunities that require men and women who have had quality modern higher education.
It will require men and women who have ha quality post secondary and university education to fill our legislative, executive and judicial institutions. Management of public affairs is a highly technical field. It needs people with knowledge, vision, judgment, wisdom. The place to forge, to cultivate this is in modern educational institutions and not fireplaces as of old. Nor do have these sage philosophers in most of our villages. And if we have, their knowledge is limited to extremely rudimentary issues.