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Published in The Border Mail on 8th February 2021

There are two school of thoughts about learning and education. One is that we must attend some educational institution to learn and get a qualification. The other is that an institution is not necessary for acquiring education or knowledge. The latter argue that learning should not be reduced to a piece of paper that illustrates one’s qualifications. Furthermore, practical life experiences teach you better than institutions. While the latter are not wrong the former are not mistaken either.

Let’s solve the degree issue first. You might know everything there is about your work and industry. You might be the smartest person around the block. But why would someone hire you? Why would someone work with you? Why would someone work for you? What proof do they have of your intellect and knowledge? It’s the question of credibility. The piece of hard laminated paper – from an institution – gives you credibility.

Education courses are now designed in a way that they incorporate work experience in them. Not just this, you can even get recognition of prior learning. You are not only getting the chance to learn through experience but also a means to get recognition of what you learnt and experienced earlier.

Those who detest degrees and certificates would argue that education is a business – a commercial activity. According to Cambridge dictionary, a business is an activity of buying and selling goods and services.  An educational institution is a service provider. They have employees who must be paid. Teaching is a profession. Teachers also have to earn a living and feed their families. Hence, there is no harm in calling education a business and there is nothing wrong with it.

Why are accreditations important and credible? Everything in this world has a system. The universe operates on a system. Every country and organisation has a system. We need a system for things to work and operate coherently. Similarly, we need a system to learn. Educational institutions teach us systematically. This ensures the conduciveness of the process of acquiring knowledge. When learning happens in a systematic way, it aligns our thoughts and experiences with newly obtained information. Research informs practice. Tried and tested pedagogies are implemented to benefit those who engage in learning.

Just as you invest in buying a house or a car, you invest in your education. This investment is lifelong. The more you invest the more you learn. It is the most profitable investment in the world. Education teaches you to think rationally. It enlightens your brain. It broadens your horizons. It develops empathy and compassion. It makes you accepting of difference in thoughts, beliefs and perceptions. If you invest in your education, the house and car and much more will follow automatically.

Like any other industry and product, there are market leaders and mediocre educational institutions. The more time you invest in your learning, the better you get at it. If you have the merit you will be eligible for further study at a leading institution. Your degree will be worth more than others. Like other phenomena of tangible and intangible growth, it’s a chain reaction where one event leads to another. Academic success in school leads to a competitive undergraduate degree at a competitive institution. This follows with a well-paying job at a leading organisation.

Some of you are questioning the credibility of this chain as you have witnessed some exceptions to this rule. All evidence that determines an outcome is always collected by comparing two sets of comparative data of the same size. The bigger the data size the more authentic is the statistics. Thus, empirical research determines the results and informs practice. Hence, exception is just an exception. An exception cannot rationalise an argument.

Having said that, hard work never goes to waste. And continuous learning always leads to success. Some might get there sooner than the others. But they will succeed eventually. Good education, motivation and volition will help them triumph. Stop arguing and giving excuses as to why you didn’t learn, why you didn’t thrive. Start investing time in your learning and get ready to witness your success.  Set smaller goals and gradually make your way up. Don’t let trivial failures bog you down. Develop resilience and keep moving forward. There is no age limit for studying anything. Take that first step towards growth and development.

About the writer… 

The writer is an Education and Career Consultant who has two gifted children. She is a professional member of the Career Development Association of Australia. She has a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering, Graduate Certificate in Careers Education and Development (RMIT) and Certificate of Gifted Education (UNSW). She also holds a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and Certificate of Fashion Illustration.

She worked for a multinational engineering manufacturing industry before switching to career counselling, professional development, writing, teaching, and case management.  She has worked in the British and American schooling systems and is now consulting with Australian schools. Her diverse experience of working around the globe in the education and corporate sector and strong academic background enables her to see the bigger picture.