Despite the clear benefits of education to individuals and society, there is no shortage of critics of formal education and the school system. And those critics do not pull their punches. In the most-watched TED talk of all time, Ken Robinson argues that education is killing creativity. Curiosity is another victim of schooling, according to critics:
It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry …
— , Gaither’s Dictionary of Scientific Quotations
The institutions of learning were initially created to produce human capital, soldiers, and good citizens. The dominant teaching paradigm has been delivering standard curricula with frequent testing that leads to formal job qualifications.
The incentives to foster and develop curiosity and creativity are relatively low in a standardized system focused on transmitting information and fixated on achievement as measured by performance on standardized tests. The approach can lead to teaching for the test, which leads to the memorization of facts instead of the holistic understanding of a topic. Too often, the content taught in schools seems unconnected to the real-world experience of children.
There is an overwhelming assumption in our educational system that the most important thing to deliver to students is content. Teachers assume that when they cover something in a course, it should be absorbed by the student.
— , Medical Education
There has been much debate on how to reform education. One area of discourse has been around the need for more focus on so-called 21st-century skills , which are perceived to be critical learning and life skills for the modern world. Despite some progress, there still appears to be much that can be done to improve formal education.
Enormous advances have been made in this century in our understanding of learning and development. School practices in the main have not changed to reflect these advances.
— , quoted in The Nature of Learning
There appears to be sufficient evidence to support some of the major criticisms of modern educational systems. If schools fail to foster the innate curiosity of children, they will struggle to become lifelong learners.