KNOWLEDGE AND COMPETENCIES - THE PRIZE OF EDUCATION

Ralph Waldo Emerson defined knowledge as the knowing that we cannot know. What colour is the sky? We all know that, when there are no clouds, the sky has a bluish colour, which we refer to as “sky blue”. This is because it is a mixture of blue, indigo and violet colours. But did you know that the sky really has no colour? In fact, outside of the earth’s atmosphere, the sun is white and the sky is dark; it is colourless!

The atmosphere determines the colour of the sky. The atmosphere also determines the colours of all other atmospheric phenomena, like halos and rainbows. This tells us something else: that, no two people can see the same sky. No two people can see the same rainbow or halo, either, because the molecules of the atmosphere that cause us to see atmospheric phenomena are not the same for any two people.

Now let us focus on one atmospheric phenomenon, specifically, the rainbow. How many colours does a rainbow have? Seven? The truth of the matter is that rainbows have more than seven colours. As a matter of fact, rainbows have numerous colours; actually, a rainbow has an infinite number of colours.

This is my point: From childhood, through learning, we are conditioned to think in a certain way. We are taught that rainbows have seven colours. We are taught that the sun does not move; it is only the earth and the planets that do. We are taught that “we”, our race, our tribe, our clan, our country, are better than “they” are! Folklore, traditions, rituals, myths and legends confine us into a box.

And here is where the problem lies: Oftentimes, what we learn conditions our thinking; our learning often restricts us to the inside of an intellectual box. What good education does is that it sets us free and allows us to think outside of this intellectual box.

What is learning? Learning is the process of acquiring knowledge and competencies. What is knowledge? Knowledge is the acquired understanding, awareness and familiarity of facts, information, ideas and skills. What is competency? Competency is the ability to do something and to do it well. The measure of your learning is therefore how much you know well and what you can do well.

After you LEARN, you begin to EARN. In both formal and informal employment, people are paid for what they know well; but people are paid even better for what they can do well. How much you learned constitutes your education. B.F. Skinner defined education as what survives when what was learned has long been forgotten!

The bible (Luke 6:40) has an interesting verse about education and learning. It says, “No student is greater than his teacher, but every student, when he has completed his training, will be like his teacher.” [Good News Version] You cannot know more than your teacher does, but when fully trained you can know as much as your teacher does. This is both a statement of logic, and a statement of fact. Your teacher can be a person; but your teacher can also be a book, a library, an encyclopaedia, or internet. Your teacher can even be social or mainstream media.

However, we need to make another point. There are two types of teachers: The first teacher gives you the lesson, and then asks you to take a test. The second teacher asks you to take a test, and then gives you the lesson. The first teacher is the formal education system, like this institution. The second teacher is the world; life teaches us many lessons through experiences.

Wise people learn through experiences; wiser people learn from other people’s experiences, and not their own.

How much have you learned? What knowledge and competencies have you acquired? Where is the limit of your sky? What rainbow do you see ahead of you — is it one with seven colours or one with an infinite number of colours? How big is your vision?

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