Inadequacy of formal education

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Failure of mass education
Failure of school systems
Systems of formal education are unable to satisfy diverse individual and collective needs for knowledge, skills and behavioural changes. In addition, enormous strain is being put on existing systems due to the vast increase in the school-going population, inadequate educational planning in relation to national requirements, rise in the cost of education per student, and financial constraints. On the other hand, mass media facilities, such as television, radio and films, paperbacks and low cost publications, libraries, and evening classes, have become more accessible. All these favour the growth of the non-formal system of education.

The national drive for education imposes new standards for evaluation of self and others; creates new situations of competition, uncertainty and conflict; and gives a new shape to the life course of men and women. Most of the costs stem from the occupational prestige hierarchy for which schooling prepares and qualifies its pupils. This hierarchy of occupations graded in earnings and social respect, tends to replace the status systems of agrarian societies and impose a single uniform standard of socio-economic evaluation based on the superiority of professionals and managers over clerks and the superiority of clerks over manual workers. In European history, the rise of this occupational hierarchy was considered democratizing, as a merit system base on individual skill that replaced a feudal system based on hereditary status. In partly mobilized societies, it may work rather differently, as when the third world farmer discovers he is a peasant or a skilled craftsman discovers he is an illiterate manual worker. The discovery that one is at the bottom of the hierarchy can come as a rude shock. This is mitigated in the partly mobilized society by the existence of agrarian communities with their alternative values and social supports. In the fully mobilized societies of the industrialized world, alternatives are no longer available and the costs are less avoidable and more sharply felt. The sense of relative deprivation is keenest when everyone who goes to school is led to believe he or she has a chance to get to the top, only to find that competitive examinations eliminate the majority. Mass education awards certificates of failure to the great majority of people. In societies where alternative social identities are not available life chances are few and most citizens are relegated to minimally significant roles.

The schools and universities have taken over and abstracted many ways of learning which in earlier times were always closely related to real life. Adults did their economic work and other social tasks; children were not excluded, were paid attention to, and learned to be included. The children were not formally 'taught'.
A French survey found that children who were quite capable of reading, writing and computing nevertheless could not comprehend the meaning of a short text or resolve basic problems. The cultural setting of both the literature and the mathematical problems was so alien to students that their basic skills were rendered useless. It is this growing gap in shared cultural context which education systems teach only by inference, because until quite recently a classroom could be expected to be culturally homogeneous.
Schooling, that is, deliberate education, has little effect on vocational ability or citizenship. Grades have little correlation with life achievement in any profession. Learning from lectures and books is dry and dull; children and students become passive and unable to think or act for themselves. By and large, though not for all topics and all persons, the incidental process of education suits the nature of learning better than formal teaching.
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
01.01.2000 – 00:00 CET