In the Future of Education, the Value of Hard Work is the Only Lesson That Matters


The modern education system hasn’t changed in about 350 years.

350 years.

Can you think of anything else that has remained basically stagnant for such an incredible period of time? Because I can’t.

There’s a reason we call the system the ‘factory model’. It was designed in the Industrial Age to ensure young workers had the knowledge required to work in a factory.

But the Industrial Age is over. Those jobs have been taken over by machines, or will be very soon.

Today, we see education as opportunity. We teach children that they can be anything they choose to be in life, and that schooling is what will make their dreams a reality.

Of course, that’s not the way it works.

But what if it was?

What if, instead of letting test scores and knowledge gaps define a student’s future, we developed a system that allowed students to recognise the gaps in their learning, work hard to rectify them, and master the skills that will lead them towards excellence in whatever they dedicate themselves to?

Sal Khan, founder of online education platform Khan Academy, believes that system already exists. We just need to implement it.

In a TED speech delivered in 2015, Khan talked about Mastery Learning, a system Khan Academy and other digital institutes have established to instill the value of hard work and dedication into their students.

He highlights the contradiction between our expectation for excellence and professional service in the working world, and the “51% is still good enough for a pass” mentality of schools across the world.

“To appreciate how absurd that is, imagine if we did other things in our life that way. Say, home building”, he says, to laughs.

“So we bring in the contractor, say ‘we have two weeks to build the foundation. Do what you can’.

“Two weeks later, the inspector comes, looks around, says ‘okay, the concrete is still wet over there, that part’s not quite up to code, I’ll give it an 80%’.

Then one day, the whole building collapses.


Because saying “do what you can, and just make sure you get 100%” is not education.

Leaving gaps in skills and knowledge so that the class can continue at a required pace does not teach students anything.

Except, too often, that they are not capable.

And that’s not just the wrong lesson, but wrong in every capacity.

If there’s one thing Mastery Learning proves, it’s that we can be anything we choose to be in life, so long as we understand that reaching the point of excellence is a process, and so long as we have the tools to fall back on when we make mistakes.

That’s what it takes to be properly educated.

That’s what it takes to be great at anything and everything you put your mind to.

That’s what it takes to be one of The 8 Percent.


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