Posted by: Admin | March 17, 2011

We don’t need no educashion!

Albert Einstein said: Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. Perhaps. “The University of Life” is oft-quoted as their alma mater by entrepreneurs and other successful folk who didn’t go through the further education system.

I know for a fact that there are thousands of young graduates in this country working on minimum wage who are left wondering whether they were sold a dud when they were urged to go to university. I know this because two of my children are in this position. The other two, having decided it wasn’t worth the debt, dropped out without completing their degrees. You don’t need to be in University to continue to learn, but what if you’re our age and you’ve always wished you had completed your degree? Or have a burning curiosity about a subject that requires the intellectual discipline to study in depth to understand it to your satisfaction?

Einstein also said: Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death. I’m with him on that – the day I stop wanting to learn will be the day I give up on life.

I dropped out of college at 19, got married and got on with life, but curtailing my formal education was always unfinished business for me. I finally achieved my degree (a BA in International Studies) in 2005 after five years of self-directed study with the Open University. The OU is a wonderful organisation, one that, incidentally, is becoming popular with regular students too since they can work and study, thus avoiding running up debt.

Graduation, 2005 - aged 44

Of course, you don’t have to study for a degree. The OU has a vast range of FREE (yes, absolutely free) short courses available through the OpenLearn website where you can satisfy your curiosity about subjects as diverse as mathematics and statistics (both basic and more advanced, such as modelling with differential equations) to an introduction to Art History, Engineering, Climate change – whatever interests you, you’ll find something on the OpenLearn Home Page.

Nervous? I promise you, the OU are experts at guiding you through what’s on offer and supporting you once they are studying. Plus their materials are first class. You could spend a lifetime dipping in and out of the subjects that interest you (I know I will!) all without leaving your armchair. And if you DO decided you want to take it further and formalise your learning, the Open University “offers over 570 courses to choose from at many different levels from short and introductory courses, certificates and diplomas to undergraduate, postgraduate and research degrees.”

Did my degree set me on a path to a new career? No. I went on to study for an MA as a “regular” postgraduate student at an actual University and applied for PhD funding, without success, for three years. Did it change my life? Undoubtedly, in the sense that it gave me confidence, fed my thirst for knowledge and, ultimately, gave me a sense of real achievement. And how proud was I to be presented with my degree by Betty Boothroyd, (Baroness Boothroyd of Sandwell, to give her her full title), former Speaker of the House of Commons! My family, who had come to see their mother graduate, broke from the tradition of gentle (and genteel) applause to whoop, cheer and yell “go Mum!”. “You’ve brought some support with you, I hear,” she said with a twinkle in her eye as she shook my hand.

My forties have been filled with education. I’ve discovered interesting things, met some wonderful people and had my mind opened to a whole world of different viewpoints, problems and solutions. If that sounds good to you – go for it! It’s never too late to expand your mind. xx

 

Dame Betty Boothroyd

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Responses

  1. When I find paperwork that ask my occupation these days I check off ‘student’ instead of ‘retired’.

  2. Too right, OF – I shall follow your example! Re: tired. What does that mean, anyway?


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