If I Have a Child

Son, be a good student. Learn diligently and get good scores so that you can be a teacher, a doctor… If you don’t, you’ll just be a cleaner.


I heard this from my friend’s story last night. That is a typical advice given by a father to his son. It does not sound strange, it sounds perfectly logic. However, is it really not strange? Because I think, when I really pay attention to the words, it is strange. Why should the son be a good student to be a teacher or a doctor? Can someone be a teacher or a doctor without being a good student? Or, can someone, although he is a good student, still ends up in a blue collar job?

I think, what that sentence represents is the common society belief, that education or being educated leads to a better job. It obviously has a logical explanation because better jobs require higher qualification. My question is what if the kid does not want to be a teacher or a doctor and wants to be a carpenter instead? Does that mean he cannot be a good student? Or what if the question is swapped? I remember one of my students who hated school and learning so that he decided to be a cleaner because he does not have to learn to be one. There is something not right here.

I think people have short-translated education as a pathway for job, and job only. I am not denying that one’s chance to have a good job increases if he has higher level of ‘education’. What is education anyway? I do not think education is the correct term here. Yes, higher level of schooling but not education. Education should not be understood shallowly because then it will lose its essence. If people see education only as a mean to get a better life in the future ‘money wise’, then education can be replaced by many things.

Education as economic tool will not survive. For example, since I was in high school there has been a trend in Indonesia that students are encouraged to cheat during the national exam. Not all teachers or even all schools do this but it exists. Once students have their high school diploma, their chance of getting a job is higher. My friend also told me that in Nigeria, once a person can earn enough money, education is not that important, especially among girls. Moreover, especially in developing countries where the ethics of education has not been wholly understood, people can pay for their higher education diploma so that they do not have to attend university to get the diploma. What a shame. Education has been translated to paper document and money.

In my opinion, people should go back, trace the root of the meaning of education so that they are not being manipulated by people who control education. In order to understand education, one may also need to unattached it from schooling as school according to Dewey (2004) is an environment to facilitate education and therefore it should not exceed education itself. It should not replace the meaning of education. Education comes from Latin word educare which means to nourish (Gingell & Winch, 2008). Historically, as Dewey (2004) explained, education is used to bridge the understanding gap between older members of society and the younger member of society so that the society exists in the future.

Education contains broad meaning for me. It does not only have something to do with economy but with life as a whole. It is not only about individual but also about society. Reflecting on this and looking at the beginning sentences on top of this text, if I have a child, I will say: Son, be educated so that you can grow to be whatever you want, whatever you think will be good for you and your society. 

May 28, 2013


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