0002 – I Don’t Know What Good Education is Anymore

Back when I decided to go to University, I boldly claimed that my goal in live, or at the very least the end goal of my career, is to be the Minister of Education for Indonesia. Doesn’t feel far off then, doesn’t feel far off now, but I’m a whole lot more unsure about what I would actually implement if I were to be given the chance.

A few background things:
I was homeschooled until uni from birth and was never enrolled into any form of formal education until my decision to go to University. My parents were big advocates for homeschooling and family based education ever since I was young and they were highly active in the alternative education scene in Indonesia. Their interest rubbed off to me, and starting from the age of 13-14 or so I was also highly interested in education, not just for my own personal sake but also as a system.

Being someone who is “already free”, extremely so in comparison to friends in formal education, I had a lot of Thoughts™ about education and the system. Mostly about how a lot of the big pain points in education currently can very much be fixed if we give students back the ability to learn on their own and give them resources in order to help them reach whatever goal they might have in their minds. And I knew this could be done! It’s not easy, but it’s doable! Things like Digital Aristoteles, MOOCs, Educational YouTube Channels, and platforms like IXL and KhanAcademy are tools that can be used in order to maximize this.

The older I get, the more I discussed the literature about a freer education be it from people like Paulo Freire, Jacques Rancière, or even Indonesia’s own Ki Hajar Dewantara, the more I realize that the idea was always there, and it was a matter of implementation. It’s hard for people who were raised by the schooling system for a minimum of 12 years and an extra 6 years in higher education to fully imagine a learning system that is not just “anything but school”. I thought I could, for I was raised entirely outside of the system, but was close enough with the system that I could sympathize with the people who are going through it, be it the teachers or the students. I thought that my experience as a homeschooler, as someone who exist outside of the system, could be that push that helps usher a much more student centred education.

I knew what good education was. It was education that was centred on the student. A student centred education, and not just the jargon use of the word. It’s all about teaching students how to create their own curriculums, learning how to learn, learning how to evaluate them self, learning how negotiate with the people around them about their learning goals, and most importantly, giving space for students to explore and find what they really want to learn about. Giving even a fraction of this space to students all over this god blessed country would bring massive changes and grants agency to so many people, letting the internet fully manifest it’s capabilities for more and more people. I had everything planned, an idea of an education system, not yet ideal, but implementable. It was good.

But then I kept on digging. I kept on asking “what does it mean for education to be good?”. One more layer, each time deepening my faith to what I knew, until I slid off and flew so far off the ground I lost all my standing. There are two part of this, one is a dissection of the word “education” and the other one is the dissection of the word “good”.

What does “education” actually mean? What are we educating? What does it mean to educate? Why is it education and not learning that is underlined? Is education inherently a propaganda by society? Can education actually bring true emancipation, if given in a systemized form? How come both spectrum of the political spectrum have the same fundamental idea on how to educate children? Wait, why are we, trying to educate children? Are children not smart enough to educate them self? I’m a student, and I think I know what I want. Do I? Do I really want to know what I want? Is it my wants or is it ones that were inherited to me by society? By the people around me?

Okay, let’s move back a little, maybe we’re going a little too far. Let’s return back to education, in particular, school. Let’s look at them for practicality, since they must have a use right? Are schools, the primary form of implementation for an education system, really a place for learning? Do people actually learn anything in school? Is it learning or memorizing that they do? Is… school actually not a place for learning, but a highly glorified socializing machine and government subsidized day care so that parents could work without worrying about their children? How much of school is actually about learning how to bow down to authority, to not question the system, to maintain the status quo? Sure we know that it was a form of propaganda, but how much of it was actually a place for future rebels to learn to hate the system enough to want to bring change? Wait is bad schooling not a fault of the system but actually a feature? Because if you are smart enough to notice that it’s bad then you should approach it as a thing to fight against. Not just the school, not just the education system, but society as a whole. Wait, but this is a very individualistic point of view… right? Societies have a need for school in order to have smart people who will lead… right? Is that entirely true? I don’t know.

I really don’t know what good education is anymore.

Post writing notes for future exploration: Socialization, friendship, identity building, rebellion, power.

Other Notes