I had a typical 80's/90's English style schooling albeit with a break around Grade 11 and completed in 3 countries. I studied the sciences and arts and also the International Baccalaureate program. I went on to university and eventually graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree.
I always believed that going to school and getting good grades was the only option to getting ahead in life and being successful (measured by being able to buy a house and car etc). Now that I have 4 children at various points in their education with 3 more entering the system over the next 5 years I'm not so sure.
When I reflected on my schooling I realised that I had learned how to answer questions on tests to show how closely I could attain a preset goal, not because I liked or had an interest in the material I was studying. Almost every question I had about my schooling had a NO answer. Did I set those educational goals? No. Did I have a say in what material I needed to learn to be successful in a course of study? No. Was everything I studied enjoyable to me? No. Was everything I studied useful to me once I had passed the test? No. Did I feel good about learning? No.
This last point is important, why didn't I feel good about learning? Firstly a lot of the material wasn't interesting. I couldn't care less about it. I did feel better about mastering certain things because they fit my interests, but mostly not. Secondly, all of my study was ranked to show how good I was at it and then compared to the rest of the class and world. Whether I was successful or not depended on how well I was able to memorize or understand regardless of what my interests or capabilities were.
Working in the education industry for the last few years I've seen a fair amount of change coming. I've found Sir Ken Robinson provides some real insight into the difference between schooling and education.
Schooling exists to create a homogenized workforce that is easy to rank, categorize and slot into available pre-defined positions within a greater factory economy. Education is a completely different beast. Education exists to allow the individual to grow and become the best they can be at the things they enjoy and are capable at to support a greater creative economy.
School is not all bad, it does provide access to other people, different opinions and exposure to other interests and subjects, but doing that within the factory/competitive setting does not generate a love for learning or encourage diving deeply into a subject.
As for what my children will get. I'm not sure yet. They are going through the school system, but having different problems with it, boredom, social issues, scheduling issues etc. I am working to provide a plethora of experiences within our family life to spark interest outside of the basics provided at school, but am limited by my own "schooling". I am learning to let go of the mandatory nature of school, allowing my children to stay home when they need to and listening to what they are interested in and helping them to learn to learn.
I am also relearning how to learn. How to develop the motivation to dig deeper. The internet gives us so many opportunities to learn and to investigate, that with the right motivation, schooling is no longer needed. Education, however, is vital not only to society, but to our individual happiness.