Step 7: Understand the value of learning

Step 7: Understand the value of learning


Edison and Einstein proved schooling isn't essential but never forget that knowledge is power and the fuel that helps you achieve your goals. Verity Aylward Author Mark Twain once said: 'I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.' Imagine a new law was passed which said all students over the age of 14 did not have to attend school: 'Learning is no longer compulsory. You do not have to be educated if it is against your will. Parents: this is not about you; it's about the kids. Teachers will still be here (this is not about them either) and exams will still run. Lessons will continue as usual, but feel free not to come in if you don't want to.' What you would do Your instincts or emotions might compel you to sprint through the school gates screaming hallelujah, but then you might start to think about it and good old reliable reason might creep in. Here's the question: Do you need to attend school to learn? One thing I hope we all agree on is that you don't. Some of the world's greatest achievers, including Thomas Edison, who invented the light bulb and the phonograph, and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein, were home-schooled after all. So perhaps the question for you to think about is: Why should I learn? Getting to grips with the value of learning is incredibly important for the independent learner. It's your source of motivation, the fuel that gets you to your goals. It may even help you tap into your life's purpose. Different types of learners Which of these reasons do you most identify with? You learn because you have to. Education in Hong Kong is compulsory. You learn because that is the law. You may be reluctant to learn in class and may not always co-operate with your teachers. Maybe you're not very good at organising and homework is rushed or late. Thought challenge: In some parts of the world, girls are not allowed to attend school because it does not fit in with a society's or a government's expectations. In many regions of the world, poverty restricts access to education opportunities and proper resources. To these young people, education is a blessing; school is a gift. They would love to be told to attend school. The fact that education is compulsory is not a valid reason to learn. You learn because good exam grades are your priority. You worry about your progress and want to understand everything. You're quite obliging to your teachers and have good organisation skills. You may find it hard to motivate yourself to learn some subjects, so in some lessons you may be distracted. Thought challenge: Although you may enjoy some subjects more than others, perhaps it's worth identifying the secrets behind your subjects. By learning maths, you are also developing skills that can be applied to cooking, art or sport. By learning chemistry, we get to understand the fabric of our daily lives, from the lotions and potions we put on our bodies to the electronic devices we take for granted. Learning for exams should not take away from your natural curiosity to ask and explore questions beyond your syllabus. You have a genuine desire to learn. You have an open mind and find yourself exploring topics of interest beyond the classroom. You see huge opportunity in learning about a range of subject areas so that you acquire knowledge. ven if you find some topics less interesting, you have a bigger picture in mind about your purpose: you understand that skills are as important as knowledge, that learning shapes your values and character. Exams are important to you and you learn from failure rather than let it bring you down. You are disciplined and have the courage to rise above peer pressures that may pull you in the wrong direction. Thought challenge: Although you may have an idea in mind about a future career path, are you working towards a life purpose? The 21st century presents humanity with many global concerns, from climate change to the gap between the rich and the poor. Although knowledge is power, you need to use it to achieve something remarkable. Get motivated To become the hero of your own story, identify someone who has the qualities you most admire. Think about what you can learn from them and how you might emulate them. Create a dream board: Cut out images that relate to all the things you want to achieve and stick them in a prominent place. Think about the deeper value behind your choices. Write a motivational mantra titled 'Why I learn'. 'Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever' - Gandhi Verity Aylward has been a secondary school teacher for more than 10 years. She is the author of the book Mind Explosion: Max Out Your Brain for Exam Success. For more information about the author and her book, go to


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