Over the years, I have had many conversations about learning, school, and knowledge. These conversations were held with people from all walks of life. Two friends come to mind.. one tells me she admires me for my perseverance while the other always tells me she does not understand how I find it even somewhat enjoyable. Despite what I might have said in the past I do think there is a big difference between school and learning. For me personally, they have been interlinked for so many years that I could only see the blanket, not the strands that made it a blanket in the first place. By reflecting I have been changing my mind. I have had more of a deep dive into the individual strands.
Learning is what we all do, all the time. When someone gives us a fun fact, we learn. When someone explains or shows us something, we learn. When we look something up, no matter how mundane, we learn. We gather knowledge all the time. Some people love looking up information, some love reading a billion books while others have this ability to watch someone do something and then.. do it themselves. This learning is not what we do in school. In school, a tsunami of knowledge is dropped upon us. For some of us, this is the information we do not care to know. Sadly it is sometimes given in a way that is so uninspiring it does not even reach long-term memory. Then we are judged for this. We are basically judged by how much we like school..
I think that for a lot of people learning and school is the same thing that should be used simultaneously. This can be done in a positive way ‘ah you love learning you went to University or in a more negative way ‘I hated school, I don’t like learning’. Using these words simultaneously is a problem. I do not agree that they are the same thing because they are not. Over the past few months, I have experienced not having the time and energy to put into the learning aspect of a course.And after a while, it stops being fun. You are running behind whatever you want to do and it feels horrible. In a sense, it reminds me of primary school. There was this one year where I had a horrible teacher, the problem was in that year specifically a lot of foundation information is thought. In addition, I have always been curious but a bit apprehensive to start things. My school’s reaction? telling me to stop asking so many questions (they even put it in my end-of-year report). For the rest of primary school, I was pulled between things being so incredibly boring or trying to learn roundabout ways to do something easy and being so confused and not understanding why I could not do it. The thing is, it doesn’t matter how well you understand a math problem if you can’t do multiplications correctly you will fail. Why no one caught that is beyond me but alright. I know teachers are busy, I have done that work. They could have known. I can only imagine if you have difficulty concentrating or if it’s just one course that is so terribly difficult for you. How upsetting it is if you need a little bit more time and space to get the chance to do something you really want to do.
As explained before, in the Netherlands we have these ‘levels’ within the school. It starts in high school and goes on throughout the rest of life really. As in the media, a distinction is made by basically what the ‘highest level of education is that you finished’. Within this generalizations are made about what ‘people’ think. With nastiness going both ways. The year before your last year of primary school you are told where you ought to go, what ‘level’ and thus in some minds what ‘class’ you belong to. As I said before I always wanted to be a primary school teacher but at 10 or 11 I was told I would never achieve this dream. Knowing what I learned later this was not exactly true but this is what I heard at that age. ‘You will never achieve your dreams’ this is not exactly said but it was understood. To me, it was devastating, that feeling I had then all these years later I can still put myself back in that exact space. For some, there is also simply the fact that there is no dream. I know someone like that, there is no push no dream yet. As I think there is always something you just have to find it. Mind you I think that when you work hard for a ‘piece of paper’ is hard but I did not do that. I always had a dream or a push for what I wanted to pursue. If it was just a piece of paper for me, I would have quit a long time ago. School is not fun all the time and hard work does not always pay off. I was always battling (as that is how it felt) for my dreams.
I have this curious spirit about the world so I kept looking and searching for something new to learn. For information that I hadn’t known before. This in general serves you in school, I liked most subjects so in the end I had it relatively easy. It was not always that way, especially my first year of high school was hard, as the teachers would repeat themselves which I now understand was so very important for other students in the class but for me, it was hard to have the decorum that was needed for the situation. I think it was unfair for everyone, for me but also for other students. It’s not fair for someone to be in your class that does get it right away, that gets a good grade without trying while you have to work really hard. It can make you feel shit about yourself while it shouldn’t. I hate talking about grades and achievement as they are arbitrary but I can see how it can make you feel very sad if you try so hard and never quit get there. The other day I remember something long forgotten. In my first year, we had something similar to shop class it was a way for students to practically learn the basic ideas of physics with a bit of chemistry sprinkled in. Bottom line, we had to make things. I was miserable in this class, one time I sustained an injury when someone was walking by with sharp supplies other times I was scared to get hurt. Mostly, I was frustrated, so frustrated that nothing seemed to work. I didn’t seem to grasp what I was supposed to do. Whatever I tried was not working out. For me it was this guessing game. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, there was no manual, no piece of paper that I could just follow that I could just read. There were no questions as I understood the assignment but I could not physically make my hands do it. At that school level, you had practical work in your 3rd and 4rd year. Everyone in my class could not wait for that to happen, not me. Thinking about it made me feel horror and dread. That might be exactly how others feel at school. But when you have classes for roughly 36 hours a week and you have this one dreadfully class for 2 of those you can manage. For the other 34 hours, I was fine for at least 25 of those I was actually quite grand.
I can only begin to imagine if those numbers were reversed. It would have been a choir every day to go. No matter how nice the teachers, no matter how fun your friends are. I am not sure if anyone could have made me go.
For the most part, I had fun in school, and I could choose whatever I wanted to do for presentations and assignments an example of this is oral arguments. For my oral argument in high school, I read William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and a massive book about greek mythology. It was very much enjoyable because I loved reading. I never quite grasped what a difference that must have made.
After finishing all of that I went on to secondary vocational education to become a teacher’s assistant. There you have to once again finish English, Maths, and Dutch. I hate to be this person but is so stupid I cannot begin to describe it. I understand that as a teacher you have to do these things, that maths is important if you want to be a nurse. But for a ton of people, it’s not important to understand English on a different level than High school. Why do we do this to people? I would understand if it would be catered to whatever your course is. So that you do maths related to whatever you will use in in the workforce or for dutch that you learn to write things related to your field. I think people that make school make learning so much less fun. You struggle through high school to finally do what you want to do for it to all be maths-based. For you to write assignments? You already proved you can do that. I think that for every school after high school it should be understood that you have the appropriate amount of knowledge and if you need more they have to make it specific to your field just as they do at applied University courses and at Universities. This is why I had to take extra high school Maths because I had to prove I could. Once I did, no one ever asked me about it again because other than the basic understanding it’s not important.
Because I have been searching my whole life for information I somewhat accidentally ended up at University. I never wanted to go to Uni, I didn’t even think it was possible. Uni is for very smart people and I am a lot but not that. I have an analytical mind and an academic spirit. I have done every level of school possible. and I am here to tell you it is all the same. I started off by telling you that distinguishes are made. People are generalized and judged by what sort of school they finished when in reality. it’s not that different. To be more specific.
Secondary vocational education (MBO) and going to a Univerity for applied science (HBO) there is no difference what so ever. You learn a trade and you do that trade.
A research University is different in the sense that you are thought to be a scientist. A frame of reference is a way to look at the world, skepticism is found and nurtured throughout. Other than that it’s not that different. It’s not a world of difference. But as I said Secondary vocational education (MBO) and going to a Univerity for applied science (HBO). There is no reason for the former to look down on the latter as it’s so very much the same thing. Or for the latter to feel less than. Most people have either of these educational backgrounds (or both). As for some jobs, you have to do either one of those. The difference is interesting as Univerity for applied science and research universities are grouped together when they should not, as I stated before the difference is that at university you learn to be a scientist at a university for applied science you do not. Thus, you can read and understand things not related to your field as you understand science so you understand what they are doing. At an applied university this is not the case. There is no reason for them to group these together but not group them any other way. It should be either not grouped at all or grouped in a different way. It confuses people. They group them together as a couple of years ago the applied University people also were awarded Bachelors as they had a difficult time finding jobs outside of the country. But a semantic misunderstanding in the general population has led to a division that is so unnecessary and frankly a bit irritating.
I have a friend who was terrified of going to a university for applied sciences as she didn’t have much confidence in her learning abilities. She finished and is now working somewhere where she is so happy. I think putting it in the way it is now will make people feel divided. It will make everyone feel as if there is a difference and that this difference is big. For some, it might be. I am not brushing that under the rug but in general, the difference is just not there in the way the world portrays it. I get so heated about this because it makes young people feel they have to go to a university for applied sciences to matter. This is untrue, you can do amazing things and have a great job while not doing that. In addition sometimes for some people putting yourself in-depth for a little bit of a higher starting salary is in no way worth it. I for one can’t help but agree. You do not have to go to university to be successful, not everyone can thrive in that environment but more importantly, not everyone has to.
It is sad I think. In the end, we need each other. I am glad to have people working in restaurants, people doing hair, for people working in shops. I am glad for the people that drive the train or the bus. But I am also glad some people wanted to be doctors or vets or psychologists.
I am glad to have found something I love to do, I am happy I can be in a space where I can ask all my questions and find out the most answers. I want that for everyone, I want everyone to love knowledge for them to share what they do best with everyone else. I am happy to be of the mindset that all of us are needed, all of us have our own specific skills. I hope that if you liked school or didn’t you will at least know… there is nothing wrong with wanting to learn. No matter how small it might feel, we are learning every day