As with nature, the strongest survive by adapting to change. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and Natural Selection explained this concept. In the natural world, however, this change happens slowly but surely. Change by itself is not bad; it is the adaptation to change that is difficult. In the natural world, this slow evolutionary change sometimes takes the pain out of the adaptation process.
Fast forward now to the world of business. Change is rapid in all aspects of business. In the world of technology, we have Moore’s Law, which is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles about every two years. Seemingly an inconspicuous observation? Don’t be fooled by its apparent simplicity. This very observation is what causes all of us to be glued to our mobile devices and access so many services electronically which was not even a dream 10 years ago. So most of us cope with this change by accessing services and goods online at our convenience. We have learnt how to use social media and electronic/online games and have identified addictions to them. Companies and individuals that do not adapt quickly are relegated to oblivion. It has nothing to do with size; in fact the bigger they are the harder they fall.
Evolution of Education
So what does all of this have to do with education and productivity? While all of this change has been taking place in the world, some things have remained static. What is the purpose of education? The curricula of the various disciplines have changed from pre-primary to the tertiary level. But have we prepared our students to deal with the psychological stresses that might be peculiar to every generation? According to Ralph Maraj in the Express of May 5th 2019, the education system annually churns out thousands who are ill prepared for adulthood. How does the education system prepare one outside of academics to enter the world of adulthood with all the psychological burdens that come with it? How did previous generations manage? I have no doubts that previous generations would have dealt with various personal and societal upheavals and stresses. But was the stress in a less technological and socially connected world different from that of today?
This goes beyond the stress of examinations only. This has nothing to do with any individual examination such as SEA or University, but generally on preparing students to be productive citizens in the real world outside of academics.
If we are to consider ourselves beings of higher intelligence, then it is necessary for us to refine our education system and teach our students, from the preprimary right up to the workplace, how to deal with the pressures of our modern day life. Just as adults need help with certain aspects of stress, so do children, students and employees. Unproductive behavior may just be a symptom of something deeper.
Isn’t it time that we began to formally deal with coping mechanisms for children from the young age all the way to University? Would this intervention have a positive impact on our society as a whole? It has been proven in several studies that apart from the formal education, a nurturing and supportive home environment greatly increases one’s chances of succeeding in school. Armed with this knowledge we can now innovate and take the argument one step further to formally engage students in stress management and coping mechanisms. Would this lead to better performance at school, less delinquent behavior and produce an individual better prepared to enter the productive world of work?
We have several complaints about the lack of productivity. What is the reason for the poor work ethic? Are the problems purely organizational? Is there any room for individual responsibility? Does it have to do with education? What separates a developed country from a developing country? Is it mindset? What causes this inertia? How does one deal with mindset on an individual basis, an organizational basis and at the country level? Is it a deficiency somewhere along the line in our education system that has caused some to fall through the cracks? How do we now address this?
Do the denominational schools have a better approach to the students or is it the home and family support that allows the students to succeed in the denominational school? What is the driver of the individual motivation? What is the difference between the approaches in the denominational vs the government schools? Is there room to learn from the other both in and out of classroom lessons?
There are several studies on motivation and leadership and the personality types that shapes an individual’s point of view. The knowledge and capability to enact such an intervention into the formal school system is already there. The hindrance might just be the logistics at this time. Would such an intervention change our education system from being highly individualistic to more all-inclusive? Time would be the best indicator of this. But if we are creatures of higher learning then shouldn’t we put all of this productive knowledge to some use that gives us some type of competitive advantage? I have no empirical evidence to quote on this, but the idea does not seem so far – fetched to me.
It is not about an entirely altruistic proposal. In the long run, it is about helping society to adapt to the Darwinian Theory which has been greatly sped up outside of the natural world. The society would not fail as a whole, but it is my theory that by this formal engagement of a stress management programme from the school level we are better preparing the future generation for success. Who knows what the new world of Artificial Intelligence, Self Driving cars, Pilot- less planes, Robotics, Inter- planetary travel and unimaginable plastic pollution would unleash on the future generation? What are your views on this?
Bhushan Singh is a Lecturer and Consultant at the Arthur Lok Jack Global School of Business