The Difference Between Learning and Education

The Difference Between Learning and Education

What is learning anyway? When people say they learned something, is it the same as getting a degree or completing a formal class? I believe that there is a huge difference between learning and education and that learning is far more important than ‘formal education’.

Learning, is psychology, is defined as a permanent change in behavior. Education is generally defined as completing a formal study program. Sometimes the two occur together, but often they do not. An example of this is running a business. Someone could complete a degree in business studies, yet still, be clueless on how to successfully start and run a business. Someone else, having never been to business school, but growing up working in his father’s shop may know exactly what is needed to make a business thrive. The first has an education, the second learned how to do business. The first has a degree, the second has the experience that permanently changed the way he does business.

The Problem with Education

There is an overemphasis on formal education today. Far too many people are taught that in order to succeed in life, they need a degree. Reality is that just as many people succeed in life without a formal education, as those who do. Perhaps even more. Education today has become a business revolving around memorization, regurgitation, accolades, and bureaucracy. Whether in school or university, it is very easy to pass by simply memorizing, remembering a few points for the tests, scoring some awards, and pleasing the right people.

This doesn’t make a person ready for the real world, or truly indicate that they have learned anything. The school system doesn’t take into account things like different learning styles, evolving technologies, real-world life skills, or shaping the behavior of students in a positive way. For too many young people, school and university are simply a game of survival and ‘passing the test’. There is no motivation to learn, grow or improve through the experience, except for a few exceptional students.

The School of Life

Young people can learn a lot more by living their lives outside of these institutes than they do in them. They can choose a learning style that suits them like reading, listening, doing or asking questions to an expert. They can choose fields they are interested in and pursue those entirely. Most importantly, they can experience life, make mistakes, and learn through all of this.

So someone who learns well through reading and wants to be a computer specialist would benefit more from sitting at home reading coding books all day. A potential athlete would benefit more from spending his prime learning years practicing, instead of sitting in a classroom. A future chef would be successful far quicker if she spent her educational years with a mentor, instead of learning history and algebra. And a future inventor would benefit more from tinkering in his home lab (like Einstein did) then from going to school.

Life is where the real learning happens. It is outside the classroom in the workplace, the home, books, online courses, mentoring, practicing, and exploring. These are the places were true learning thrives and happens. Schools have simply become babysitters to keep children out of the parents’ way, rather than actual places of learning.

Its time to do away with school altogether

That may sound like a radical thought. Maybe it is. But every day more and more people are thinking about it. The world is changing. Knowledge is available online in almost any field. As I write this, two of my children are attending online courses, while the other two are using YouTube to explore their interests. All of them spend more time reading books than attending formal classes. And each of them enjoys learning and loves the entire system we have developed for them.

The world is changing. We have the technology. We have the internet. We have the resources at home. We no longer need an outdated industrial-era system of education. Either we revamp it completely or throw it out the window. The longer society takes to make this decision, the more people will waste a large portion of their lives thinking they are learning while doing nothing more than simply receiving an education.

A few alternatives to school and university

But school and university are the only paths to success, right? Not anymore, here are a few alternatives:
1. Homeschooling
2. Online Learning
3. Self Education
4. Starting a Business
5. Finding a mentor
6. Interning
7. Unschooling
8. Traveling
9. Reading
10. Spending time with people who have succeeded in your field of interest

All of these methods are far more beneficial than wasting a large portion of one’s life in a classroom. Find a method that works for you and start today, even if it is for just an hour a day after school.

NOTE: I am NOT anti-education. I am simply writing this to get people thinking about alternatives. School isn’t working, it is outdated and needs a revamp. Until we do so, there is no harm in exploring alternative forms of education. We shouldn’t deceive ourselves into thinking that passing tests and receiving accolades is real learning. Furthermore, formal education is still necessary for certain career paths like medicine and psychology, so we can’t do away with it altogether. It is important, but not as important as real learning, that is where life happens.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Homeschooling

5 Ways Education was better in the Muslim Golden Age

5 Ways Education was better in the Muslim Golden Age

It is no secret that I am a critic of the modern school system. An experiment that started just over one hundred years ago, the current system is already outdated and failing millions of children. However, education wasn’t always like this. During the Muslim Golden Age, education thrived through a system of Madrassas, universities and private tutorship that produced some of the greatest minds of that era.

NOTE: Madrassa (in this article) is used to refer to the ancient schooling system that covered all subjects ranging from Math to science to religious studies. It does NOT refer to the modern secularized version that separates and focuses only on religious studies.

Muslim Golden Age Madrassa

As we move forward and try to fix our current system, we can look back and draw important lessons from systems that worked in the past. Here are five lessons we can take from this ancient education system and apply to our times.

1. It focused on individual strengths

The Madrassa system of the Muslim Golden Age did not have a one-size-fits-all approach to education. As young as seven years old, a student would be categorized according to his strengths and assigned studies accordingly. As a result, time wasn’t wasted teaching students things they were not going to use in life.

Think about it? Why would a language expert need to study High School Math? Or a Math whiz need to study grammar in depth? Why should a history buff need to memorize science facts to pass a test? Or a budding scientist need to memorized the dates and names of various wars?

When a student recognizes his/her area of expertise early, they can choose their subjects accordingly. This led to the second benefit of this ancient system.

2. Students would graduate earlier.

By starting early, time wasn’t wasted with a 13 year common education program, before deciding what to specialize in. As a result, in the Muslim Golden Age many great scientists and doctors graduated and started practicing at incredibly young ages.

Ibn Batutta graduated as a judge (Qadhi) at the young age of 21. And Ibn Sina was already treating patients when he was 18 years old. In fact, Ibn Khaldun was already a graduate in Islamic Studies by the age of 17!

This shows the benefit of a system that focuses on strengths. Each of these individuals went on to become legends in their fields dedicating their lives to mastering and developing their areas of expertise.

Imagine today if we can have people discover their strengths at a younger age, graduate younger, and start working on their legacy at a younger age. A large part of people’s lives that is usually wasted\ could become the most productive time of their life with such a system.

3. There were many education systems

A single system of education does not benefit everybody. People learn in different ways, and so there should be various systems on offer. So each student can choose to study in a way that suits their study style best.

We see this in the earlier periods of the Muslim Golden Age. Some great scientists went through the madrassa system, while others studied books at home. Some experimented in their labs, while others sat at the feet of mentors and learned from them. And some even combined all of these at different stages of their lives.

So education to be relevant again. We need to stop thinking that one system suits all. We need more variety. If someone is a voracious reader, then let them stay home and consume as many books as possible. If someone learns better through experiments, take them out of school and give them a lab to experiment in. (Which is what Einstein’s parents did)

The world needs a more flexible system of education. So that readers are not stuck attending lectures, and physical learners are not stuck sitting quietly in class. We need to find ways to make this happen in the modern world, and the internet makes it more possible than ever before.

4. They did not separate subjects into Islamic and Secular

The separation of school and Madrassa in the modern world is a result of colonialism, and has had a terrible effect on the minds of Muslims. Entire generations of Muslims were raised thinking that math, science and language have nothing to do with Islam. And that Islam is just something you study in the afternoon, but the ‘secular subjects’ are your priority.

The reality is that Islam teaches us to actively pursue all beneficial knowledge. This includes knowledge of beliefs, Islamic law, history, math, science, business, personal development and everything else that benefits us.

During the Muslim Golden Age, this was the norm. Al-Khawaarizmi invented Algebra to solve complex Islamic inheritance law issues. Ibn Sina pursued medicine because the Prophet (peace be upon him) taught us that every illness has a cure. Ibn Khaldun analysed history because the Quran teaches us to take lessons from history. It was all intertwined. we need to return to this system of education that does not separate between subjects into religious and secular. All that matters is beneficial knowledge.

5. It served a higher purpose

In the Muslim Golden Age, education was not primarily about the pursuit of wealth, fame and status. (Although such individuals did exist) The primary purpose of the Madrassa system was to raise citizens who would serve God and take care of God’s Creation.

Education was for the sake of community, not self. It was for God, not desire. And it was for making the world a better place, not just lining one’s pockets. This is why during the Muslim Golden Age, we find the existence of free healthcare (even for animals), free education, entire systems dedicated to charity work, and overall increase in happiness for the average person.

An education system that focuses on selfish materialistic success is doomed to fail. Such a system produces narcissists and selfish individuals. It makes us lose focus on what is most important: pleasing the Creator through caring for His creation.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Homeschooling

10 Alternative Methods of Education

Alternative Methods Of Education

10 Alternative Methods of Education

It is no secret that I despise the modern school system. I believe it kills creativity and self-confidence, makes children hate learning, and creates an unnatural unhealthy social atmosphere, among other problems. This is why I am a huge fan of alternative methods of education.

You see…it turns out that humans don’t really need school. Many people across the globe educate themselves daily without the need for grades, subjects, and exams. They are self-motivated and driven, and often use one or more of the following alternative methods of education.

So here are 10 alternative methods of education that you can apply to yourself or your children. I believe all 10 of these methods are more effective than traditional school teaching.

NOTE: Even if your children go to school, you can still utilize these methods after school hours, during holidays and on weekends.

1. Family Discussions

Just hang out with your children and discuss topics that they are interested in. Children learn far more in an hour of healthy respectful discussion than in an entire day of forced schooling. When making time for your children, make sure in include time to discuss the topics that really matter to them.

2. Integrated Learning

The world isn’t divided into subjects like science, maths, geography and history. It is all interlinked. So why not utilize a similar method to teach your children. Focus on themes and topics, and explore everything related to the topic. For example, the biography of Al-Khawarizmi can be a theme. From this theme, they can learn Islamic History, Maths, Science, History of Maths and Science, and Life Lessons, without using any of these terms. An integrated approach is more natural and holistic.

3. Unschooling

Unschooling is the philosophy that humans learn best when they are self-motivated and left to explore their personal interests. It is the belief that if children are left on their own, they will learn whatever they need to excel in life without being forced to learn specific subjects. I was skeptical of this philosophy at first, but after experimenting with it for a few years, I have found it to be very effective. Learn more about my homeschooling experiments here.

4. Apprenticeship

This is the oldest education method I know of. It existed long before the modern school system, and is very effective. For some reason, humans have moved away from it despite its effectiveness. This is a very simple method: If your child is interested in a career in a specific field, let him serve as an apprentice to an expert in that field from a young age, and he will grow into it.

5. Mentorship

Simply put: if your child admires an adult member of your community for their piety, good manners, or other great qualities. Then ask that community member to mentor your child. He/she can become a positive role model and influence on the child, and the child will learn much more from conversations with a mentor than from the school system.

6. Reading

Good old school reading. Nurture the love of reading in your children. Develop in them a love for non-fiction especially. If you can nurture in them the love of reading non-fiction, then they will continue reading for life. And will continue learning for life. This is one of the most important habits you can nurture in your child.

7. Online Courses

Why limit education to the subjects that schools teach? If your child takes an interest in a subject not taught in school, sign them up for an online course in that subject instead. They will learn very quickly with online courses. We, at Islamic Self Help, firmly believe that online courses and reading books are two of the most effective ways to learn any topic, this is why we publish many online courses and eBooks.

8. Travelling

Not all alternative methods of education are home-based. People learn a lot from travelling. We learn about the natural world, different cultures, different religions, and crucial life skills from travel. Children benefit greatly from such experiences too. If you can afford it, travel with your children. Worldschooling is an amazing educational experience for any child who is lucky to experience it.

9. Writing

The art of writing is not just a hobby or a means of doing work. Writing in private, for example, in a diary, allows a person to look at their thoughts, reflect on them and engage with them. This is a very important learning experience for anybody. Teach your child this method of self-reflection, then give them the privacy to explore their thoughts in writing. They will learn so much from just writing to themselves and reflecting on it.

10. Playing

Children learn through play. In fact, so do adults. The easiest way to learn any skill is to make it fun. For some reason, people have forgotten this and even Kindergarten isn’t fun anymore. This is why I love the Montessori education method. It recognizes the importance of fun in learning.

Turn your home into a fun environment full of edutaining activities and games. Let the children explore, have fun and enjoy these activities and games. They will learn fast and naturally without any adult enforcement. Learning through fun is so effective that some children teach themselves how to read and do maths just by playing fun games on their own.

So there you have it, 10 alternative methods of education. Pick one and try it out. You won’t regret taking the time to help your child rediscover their love of learning.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Homeschooling