Winner in school = Loser in life?


Attending dinners with relatives in a big Chinese family is a perfect time to observe inconsistency. On one hand, parents make every effort to make their children study and get into good schools. On the other hand, parents openly conclude the pattern – ‘Oh, XXX sucked in school but now he/she is making so much money.’ ‘YYY was doing so great in school but not making big money or gaining big power!’. Such discussion indicates if one is a winner in school, he/she is probably gonna be a loser in life. Vice versa.

For a long while, I was not sure if I shall choose to be a winner in school/loser in life or a loser in school/a winner in life. I was very confused. I am pretty sure I am not the only one lost in such inconsistency – the perceived negative correlation between school performance and life performance.

Part of the problem goes to the perception of how people learn. In the tradition system (in most counties) , we saw learning as an individual process, a process to receive formulas and terms from classroom context. Therefore we separated learning from being social and from doing. The core skill required to excel in a traditional education system is to be able to concentrate, take information as input and process it as output in exams. In one’s career and social circle, the core skills required are very different. One needs to learn how to communicate, negotiate, calculate risk. Fundamentally one needs to understand oneself well and adopt to environment quickly. None of these skills were trained in school.

I am guessing this explanation partially explains the puzzling theory. Therefore we are able to understand it is NOT the receive of education that is detrimental to one’s life performance. Instead it is the lack of essential skill trainings in formal education that causes the seemingly ridiculous contradictory.


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