This article dates back to July of 2010. It was published at Wrytestuff.com and received very interesting comments and insights. In other words, my obsession with adding the “Fun” factor to education is not new!Only recently, thanks to my virtual mentor Mark Mcguinness , I figured out a way to put it into action. ( I will write a tribute post for Mark later on as I learned a tone from him for free!)
Daring to Dream the Impossible! Can Education Ever be “Fun”?!
I had a very interesting and rather unusual experience with education that I want to share with you. When I completed high school, I was living in a small Egyptian city called Ismailia. Still, my father encouraged me to apply to the American University in Cairo (AUC) because three of my cousins were studying there. So, I did and I was required to take two qualifying tests: English and Aptitude.
To my dismay, I failed English and my high school grade was 76%. That’s why, I was told that I had to take an extensive English course and pass it to be admitted to the university. That was fine with me but I was also required to pay a lot, and I mean a lot, of money because my high school grade was “average”!
So, I gave up and actually enrolled in another “average” university. Few months later, I received a heartwarming letter form AUC telling me that I was among the highest scores in the aptitude test and, as an exception, I may pay much lower fees! But I still needed to take their English course first. (This course was so good to the extent that the easiest “A” in my academic history was in English literature!)
You could imagine how I felt at this moment! Suddenly, I was no longer an average student and my amazing educational experience saw the light. Here are just two examples of how my university days were mind blowing!
* – In a psychology course, I didn’t study a word for the mid-term exam but the question was rather interesting. So, I made up an answer and expressed my personal opinion that turned out to be the complete opposite of the book. I was ready to drop the course gracefully after receiving my “F” grade but to my surprise, I got a “B-” and the professor wrote me a “praise poem” in which he acknowledged my reasoning skills and in the end, he added a minor remark that my answer had nothing to do with the given book!
– – I wanted to join the “Model United Nations” and because politics was not my cup of tea so to speak, I did crazy readings in order to pass the qualifying interview. However, all my hard word was in vain because the question I was asked was opinion-based not knowledge-based! The interviewer said: “If you were a president of a country and you caught some spies from a threatening country, would you use torture to obtain critical information from them?”. My answer was: “No because they could easily give me misleading information”. This is why I was accepted because I had good persuasion skills and managed to support my argument!
What was mind blowing to me is that in these situations I was acknowledged for my “competencies” not my knowledge! Obviously, I didn’t study for the aptitude test nor the psychology test and my extensive political readings didn’t do me any good!
As a result, for the first time in my life I started to LOVE education to the extent that I took extra courses! So, even the knowledge that I was lacking was no longer a problem.
Based on this experience, I can objectively say that the Western educational system is far more advanced than the Middle Eastern one.
Having said that, I still believe that education in the West needs more “tweaking”. When Bill Gates, the richest man alive and also a college dropout, gave a speech in the graduation ceremony of a highly acclaimed university, he said that he was asked to address graduating students because the faculty knows that if he spoke to freshmens, they will leave university!!
Look at someone like Anthony Robbins for example. He doesn’t have a formal education but he couched key political figures and CEOs! Do you think he is the ghost writer of the famous “We don’t need your education” song?!
Also, after living in Canada, I found that changing careers several times is very common which means that the current educational system doesn’t give students enough tools to discover their true passions early on. Instead, they have to go through a life-wasting trial and error phase to figure it out!
If some genius invented the time machine and I managed to go back to my university years, I would major in mass communication and minor in theatre. But what actually happened is that I majored in computer science and minored in electronics!! Although I was very fortunate to join AUC, I was still unable to decide the right career path except much later.
So, I guess both the east and the west should take a close look at what “planet Japan” is doing. It is the only country I know of that helps children discover their true potentials and nurture them. In fact, every student in Japan has a plant that he must water regularly. The same plant grows with him throughout his educational journey as a symbol of how education makes him grow as well. Isn’t that fascinating?!
Also we need to understand why students dread going to school. It’s because education doesn’t have the “fun” factor! Based on my readings, when people laugh, their capacity to acquire information increases 18 times! Imagine if students were educated through artistic and creative activities! My brother’s 6 th grade science teacher explained the digestive system by making up a song about it! Yes, you guessed right: my brother never forgot it since then.
That’s why, in my humble opinion, I strongly believe that adding the “fun” factor to education is not only essential but also very doable. What do you think?
Now, after a year and half, I am repeating the same question: What do you think?