Why you need to know the difference between learning and education

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We often use the terms learning and education interchangeably but did you know they mean very different things? Read on to find out how you can ensure your child is learning purposefully.

Alber Einstein once said, “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education”. We often use the terms learning and education interchangeably, or assume that education means to learn, but did you know that they aren’t the same thing? Have you ever wondered what the difference between learning and education is?

Difference between learning and education

To explain the difference between learning and education in the simplest possible way:

  • Learning – knowledge gained through experience
  • Education – knowledge gained through teaching

Education is what people do to you while learning is what you do to yourself.

And what does this mean? Why do you even need to know this? As parents, we need to understand that the main goal of sending our children to school is for them to learn.

Education is a tool for learning, but it should not be the end product. In fact, the objective of education is learning, not teaching. We don’t want to raise children who are merely educated. We want them to be lifelong learners, with an insatiable thirst for knowledge.

Only then will they become creative and independent thinkers, and are more likely to succeed in life. This is especially important given the digital world we live in today. Things are constantly changing and what we learnt a few years ago can become completely irrelevant before we even know it.

To further illustrate the difference between learning and education, let’s look at some common scenarios.

Did you ever realise that a child learns how to walk, talk and eat without actually being taught how to? And adults learn a lot of what they use at work in their own time and space.

With this understanding of the difference between learning and education, let’s look at one simple way to ensure that your child is learning instead of just getting educated.

Learning through explanation

This is an extremely powerful way of learning. No, I do not mean explaining a concept to the learner. I’m talking about getting the learner to explain.

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The difference between learning and education: If your child can explain something to you, then you know for sure that learning has taken place.

Take this scenario for example. Your child comes home from school and has just learnt some basic facts about the solar system. He’s extremely excited and buzzing with questions to find out more. He reads a bit, watches a couple of videos and then gets a better understanding.

The next day, as you’re driving him to school, he asks you this:

Mum do you know what a lunar eclipse is?

Then he proceeds to give you a thorough explanation of it. Now that is learning. Why? Because the one who explains learns the most.  

The one listening to the explanation can forget what he was told, but the one explaining has to be pretty sure of what he’s saying. It took some time and effort to get it into his head to begin with, so it’s definitely going to stay in there.

Case study of the Finish education system

Finland’s education system is the perfect illustration of the difference between learning and education. If you haven’t already heard, their education system is among the best, and they are constantly changing it to suit the needs of the present day.

Even then, they have further revamped their education system in the recent times. Let’s adopt one simple strategy from their education system and apply it to ensure that our children know the difference between learning and education.

Teach children how to learn not what to learn

The students in Finland learn the skills to obtain knowledge instead of just learning the content. This applies to the present day for what we need now is skill that remains relevant in an uncertain and volatile global environment.

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Students need to keep up with the ever changing demands of this 21st century globalised world.

This reminds me of a famous quote by Alvin Toffler:

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.

So let’s work towards raising children who learn how to learn instead of what to learn!

Source: Wharton University  The Straits Times