It is no denying that most of the entrepreneurs, inventors, and innovators that lead successful legacies and companies all have a back story of quitting school. Does this mean the age-old system of education is dying out? Or does this mean a revamp of the system needs to occur and it needs to happen fast?

In lay terms, formal education is a type of learning that occurs in a confined space with specific rules, and guidelines. As times evolve, we’ve seen a surge in millennial entrepreneurship with backstories of quitting formal education (i.e. school) along the way. This is an interesting observation as the system we currently live in suggests that education creates a path for us towards a comfortable life that is only achieved by going to school and succeeding at it. So, when a large cohort of people opt out of this system to pave their own path and succeed at it, then this calls for collective discussion right?

From past innovators like Einstein to current entrepreneurs like Zuckerberg, we hear it time and time again that school is not the ultimate path to success, and so why do we still get the stipulation to follow down a path of confined learning, acquisition of debt, and perhaps a few mental breakdowns from stress, deadlines, exams and commitments?

Better yet, why have some of the millennials of today now chosen to opt out of this system?

I have a few theories:

1) I believe there was a time when the current system of formal education was necessary; A time when order was needed, a time when widespread, collective and universal learning was needed, and a time when grading individual mental capacities was needed. But this time is no longer now, and thanks in part to the digital age. See the thing is this…I was once in a room with 1,600 millennial entrepreneurs all listening to Nobel Peace prize laureate, Prof. Muhammad Yunus talk about why the current education system is no longer in our favour. He mentioned that by nature, we humans are doers, makers, and inventors. We inherently and innately are natural born creators. It is evident all around us in all that we do, all that we have and all that we acquire. From the chair I sit to create this article to the keyboard I am hitting to type these words. There is a creator behind everything.

If you don’t believe me, at least believe the evidence of evolution, how man came on land, and quickly adapted to its new surroundings by creating stuff – scientists, researchers & archeologists have evidence!! But what’s happened with digital revolution is that things have become easier, and with years of continuous and confined learning of topics that are both of interest and not of interest, formal education has added fuel to the fire of not only making things easier, but also diminishing our ability to create, and invent.

So, as a result of making things easier and effectively making humans lazy, a system of routine has now been forged for us. Go to school, work regular hours every day, acquire your pension, retire and die…A lot of us enjoy this lifestyle of routine – a guaranteed course of life. However, some don’t, and the majority of these people are in the cohort of millennials today. Check out this TED talk speech by Sir Ken Robinson titled, “Do Schools Kill Creativity”.

2) There are just no jobs after school. The reason a lot of people believe in the education system is because it promises a guaranteed lifestyle of moderate if not high success. Go to school, get good grades, get a good job, grow in ranks at your workplace, retire, and get a good pay out. So when something goes missing in the above equation, the balance is disrupted, and there will no longer be trust in and for the system.

It is no denying that the majority of new graduates in the past few years have no jobs, in fact we are in a time with one of the highest rates of unemployment because there just aren’t enough jobs to cater to all the graduate students. This becomes an issue because the education system is built upon raising debts of individuals and collecting payment upon ushering them into the workforce and so when there is no job, there is no repayment of debt. This then leads to an utter lack in trust of the system and people then choose to opt out of the system entirely to avoid debts from their end.

People who follow this path even go on to startup their own ventures, hence leading to a surge in the percentage of millennial entrepreneurs today. To find out more about this cycle of reducing education debt, read the article published by the Globe and Mail titled, “Hunting for the perfect job: Why the realities of the job market have convinced gen z to be their own boss“.

3) People are beginning to realize the flaws in standardized testing associated with formal education. Standardized tests are used today to evaluate students, grade them and use these grades to determine their intellectual capacity. One must admit that this is an entirely flawed system. Standardized tests offered in a specific time to test certain questions need not be used to judge the capacity of our human brain. Our brains are constantly adapting, forming and shaping, and so this is not the most ideal and accurate forms of measuring each individual capacity. Standardized tests truly fail to acknowledge the uniqueness of each individual. We are all richly and uniquely different, no one brain is the same, this is why we have different resumes. So, a test offered in the same order to a large collective of people is not a true way to measure our individual differences.

For more on standardized testing for measuring individual mental capacities, read this article published by the Atlantic titled, “Finnish Education Chief: ‘We Created A School System Based on Equality‘”. It is written by Christine Gross-Loh and it features an interview with Finland’s minister of education, as well as observations from her research done on a few schools in the country. For anyone curious why Finland is referenced in this article, the country consistently and time and time again gets awarded for offering one of the best education systems in the world because of its promotion of equity, and its success at fostering individual potential.

It does this by encouraging children to begin school at age 7, have more recess, shorter school hours than many U.S. children do (nearly 300 fewer hours per year in elementary school), and the lightest homework load of any industrialized nation. There are no gifted programs, almost no private schools, and no high-stakes national standardized tests.  

– Christine Gross-Loh

Another great reference of the flaw in standardized testing associated with the education system today is this video narrated by Prince Ea, titled,   “I Just Sued the School System”.

It is important to note that although, the education system today needs to be reworked in what seems to be every other country but Finland, we should also praise it for helping to foster and speed up our acquisition of knowledge of all kinds. The school system gives us space to consistently and constantly learn thus fuelling our innate nature for curiosity, and it also helps in promoting intellectual advancement. In addition, I find that the only flaw of the school system today arises only when it fails to encourage people to go forth and use all the skills its provided them with to advance on their individual potential.

I believe that school is merely a stepping point, or a temporary space, it should not be treated as an end point or a destination as is typically misconceived. Our quest for knowledge will remain undying and so conforming to a routined way of life after school should not be encouraged for all, we should all have the freedom to invent, create and make and quench our thirst for curiosity and invention post education system.

I co-created a podcast about this same topic, listen to it on Wingd’s Official Podcast page.

I am curious to hear your thoughts. What do you think? Let’s converse.