Contributions in Education

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1563)

Efficiency and Effectiveness

To be effective is the ultimate goal of a student. Even though both effectiveness and efficiency is desirable, effectiveness holds a greater priority. Getting the right things done is way better than getting things done right. However, my own observations show that students generally confuse efficiency and effectiveness.

To often has a student succeeded in making his own comprehensive and multi-colored notes only to fail exams again and again. Judging from the ability to generate such beautiful works of art in the form of his notes, one should assume that the student is not only efficient, but hardworking. In other words, effort and efficiency has been invested to obtain undesirable results!

The most likely reason for the student’s failure in this context in the lack of effectiveness. Spending half an hour understanding the concept and philosophy behind a subject far outweighs the benefit of an hour of ‘copying’ portions of the textbook to form personal notes. A student who spent half an hour understanding the reason for the subject’s existence enables the formulation of ideas on how knowledge gained can be applied. In contrast, one hour of copying does nothing more than to clone a piece of paper with black ink on it.

Similarly, bright and intelligent people are also prone to the lack of effectiveness. They are in abundance, bright people of whom I have the pleasure to meet, who are unable to gain good academic results or a thorough understanding of his field of study. Intelligence and genius left alone is not effective. Peter Drucker once said that  people failed to realize that brilliant insight is not by itself achievement. In line with this, intelligence if not applied to do the right things is inconsequential as it produces no results.

Therefore, the bottom line is that students should be efficient in doing effective things. While this is of course easier said than done, its achievement would yield a bounty of rewards. First, lesser time is needed to do the things that really matters. Second, the things that really matters get done. Thus a student would obtain a desirable outcome with minimal time which frees up more resources for other more productive (maybe co-curricular) activities.

Focus on the Contributions

In order to be effective, a student must know the ultimate aim of studying. This of course differs from one individual to another. Nevertheless, once the vision, mission and objectives of education have been set, a student should focus on doing things that contribute to their attainment. Failure to do so would often lead to resources spent in doing counter-productive things.

Take for example, the linear, lengthy and multi-colored notes that you often see in front of students before their examinations. Not only are they a waste of time, they are a waste of resources and paper! If one aims to obtain a comprehensive bible for a certain subject, one should buy the subject’s textbook. If one wants brief and summarized notes, make sure they are short and sweet.

People often confuse quantity with quality as they do with working hard and working smart. Instead of reproducing a textbook of data and information, it would really be wiser to come up with mind maps, key words using the Cornell’s method or even acronyms for things a student should remember before his exam. Do not do things that are repetitive as they are fundamentally counter-productive.

More often than not, people tend to specialize in their fields of study while ignoring all other forms of knowledge. This act of isolating one’s self to a narrow scope is not only counter-productive but folly. Instead of just looking at the sky from inside a well, one should think of how the subject he studies creates value to the society. Knowledge that does not create value for society is worthless.

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