The meaning of education

We use to divide our lives and careers along criteria such as “success” and “failure”. We take them as absolutes, without questions. As well as absolute are degree grades, pay-cheques and so on, leaving these numbers to define ourselves as human beings.

Senegal makes no difference. On a school report, for instance, besides a grade for each subject and the average, one can find also his place in the class rank: 5th out of 63 (and a class is actually made up to sixty pupils).

A huge part of the time I spent in Ziguinchor coincided with “composition”. That is the period in which students get ready for their much feared and very hard (relatively speaking) final exams. Every day children are divided into study groups and repeat math, grammar rules and so on, trying to do as many exercises as possible.

All students have to pass through “composition”, at all levels. It’s hard not to pass final exams but nevertheless the grades you get are as important as passing it.

By attending their preparation and passing (luckily all of the kids I was working with achieved wonderful results) such a test made me questioning the deeper meaning of education.

Do we go to school and study a lot so to get a better understanding of the world we live in and to acquire useful competences to be used in the adult age? Or is it true the opposite: had this world already decided a set of paths for us to take, being our job limited into providing the correct answer for every test we will get to do? What is the purpose for creativity and imagination, or for values like, for example, empathy?

I believe that while answering these question we should also challenge a lot of what we do on a daily basis. Whenever we abandon ourselves to sheer numbers, being money or grades, we surely refer to a standard system, the same for everybody, easily controllable and with an immediate validation. But at the same time I guess we are giving away a part of ourselves: the human part.

Dario