Education based on intrinsic motivation

Yesterday I wrote about my frustration with the current state of our education. You can go ahead and read that post here, but in essence it comes down to the observation that our adherence to industrial-type education is failing to prepare us for the future.

Now, preparing for the future is a broad concept, but it can get real fast. If we fail to educate for the future, the people who will finance our old age will not be in a position to do so, leading to a deterioration of our lives, both for them (the young people) and for us. Rather than a conceptual responsibility which is almost like doing young people a favour, our ability or inability to educate has tangible impacts, not only on them but on us as well.

How do we educate now? We spoon-feed ideas and concepts, seldom illustrated or demonstrated, to children locked up in classrooms. If you as a child do not take your inputs that way, you are in trouble. There is little discovery involved, let alone interest.

If we want our children to learn, we need to support them and help them become intrinsically motivated. They need the “drive” to be educated.

Daniel Pink states that in order for people to be happy and intrinsically motivated in what they do, they need to find back three distinct but interconnected aspects. You can see a wonderful video about his TED talk with a more detailed description here. A person needs autonomy, they need to be steering their own lives. A person needs to strive for mastery, which is a continuous opportunity and interest to improve their skills through learning and practice. And finally, a person needs purpose, they need to be working towards something which is larger than themselves, which contributes meaningfully to society.

Let’s see how our educational system responds to these requirements. Quick preview: our current education is a disaster in that aspect.

Our current educational system does not promote autonomy. Children are obliged to stick to a strict schedule which is a structure of convenience to be able to fit as many children as possible into an educational system, on occasion with classes of more than 30 people. Remember industrial solutions for a post-industrial age? Right there, people, right there.

Our educational system does not focus on developing mastery, except for a few. And even then. Children are asked to repeat what is told, to re-produce rather than to practice and sense their own progression. They may master the activity, but they do not understand its wider implications nor its relevance.

And finally, few youngsters have any idea on how they can have a purpose in this world. Which explains why many of them tune out from the world and lock themselves up in their own echo chamber, with other youths.

Let’s take this to a first conclusion … in order for our educational system to become relevant again, which is important for us, the people going through the “system” need to be motivated. In order to be motivated, the educational system needs to ensure that as many people as possible, including the educators, feel autonomous, feel they are developing mastery and feel this evolution will allow them to contribute meaningfully, to have purpose.

But how do we get there? Let’s explore that in a following post.