Learning is Different From Education

learning is different from education

Illustration by Christian Laborin

While in college I was the guy that jumped from one topic to another. I wanted to learn what I wanted, when I wanted at my own pace. So, if I wanted to jump into a class from the electronics major, that’s what I did.


Because the way education was and is designed didn’t work for me; it moves too slow, I felt constrained and categorized. If the point of education is to give you facts to memorize by a teacher in front of a blackboard, there has to be a bette way and I believed I could learn better and faster on my own.

I’m a Montessori alum, which basically means I learned through play and curiosity. It’s still a constant for me, and the education system never beat it out of me. It’s safe to say that unless you’re in a top university the current education system, with its focus on specialization, doesn’t cater to us curious people.

This must change if we and the next generation are to reach our full potential, for we entering an era where specialized tasks will be outsourced to robots and intelligent bots; humans will shift to using what traditionally is beaten out of us through education: creativity.

I believe in a future where the point of education is not to prepare you for another useless job, but for a meaningful missionJust imagine if this were the case, we’de live in a different world!

To start, we need to understand and embrace constant and fluid learning over rote memorization; to change the system that rewards knowers to rewarding learners. Below, are some thoughts on the difference between learning and education:

Learning is play, education is work

Education is the precedent for work, you get spoonfed information by someone that is supposedly more capable and experienced than you so you can then be tested and qualified. Then he/she decides whether or not you make it to the next round.

Doesn’t that sound like work?

Learning, on the other hand, is self-directed. You decide what you want to learn and what you want to do with it. You are self-motivated; intrinsic not extrinsic. You can make leaps, while work rewards short-increments that have a higher chance of delivering immediate and predictable results.

Learning is continuous, education has phases

Education has a time set. For example, most every major is minimum 4 years. Why? Who said that’s how it should be? Is there some unbreakable law of physics that says that in order to be educated you need to go through a 4 year college?

Learning, on the other hand, is a lifelong pursuit. No need to be sitting in a room with a black board and teacher in front of it to get yourself in the mood to learn.

Learning prepares you for life, education prepares you for a job

Parents want to hang your diplomas on their wall as a sign that you made it; or they made it. But, we’re celebrating the wrong things because careers have expiration dates.

In general terms, schools and universities are mechanisms that deploy diplomas with some guarantee for a job. Yes, jobs exist to fill needs but most of these jobs will eventually become common and are completeley devoid of any meaning whatsoever. You get rewarded for staying in your lane and rarely venture out to explore possibilities; you don’t get a chance to shape your path.

The problem: Your job is not your life, nor is it your identity.

One thing is certain: in the future all of us will have many careers and projects; and that’s awesome!

To improve is to learn, and it never ends. We must continuously challenge ourselves, get out of our comfort zone, venture out into new and unexplored domains. We must be in a constant state of becoming!

Learning expands your perspective, education narrows it

Education is designed and optimized for specialization, people who are specialized in a topic because doing so leads to job placement. Ironically, society lives and dies by specialization, but progresses because of generalists.

We now live in a world where information and knowledge is a click away, this changes things; and the current education system is not designed for this brave new world.

How do you design an organization for perpetual reinvention? Only those who are learners will try and figure out the answer to this question.

Learning leads to reinvention, education doesn’t anticipate or plan for it

Learning inspires you to question the givens and reinvent yourself. Education is a mandate, and nobody ever got rewared for questioning the teacher. This is a problem, for if the teacher isn’t a learner then why would we expect students to be?

There are many people with the degrees but without a passion for their chosen craft. Then there’s people with talent whom the track of education was not built for, but get turned down because they don’t fit a certain mold; both are wasted talent.

The education system’s goal should be to help develop, nurture and unleash talent; not to dampen and beat it out of people.

People reinvent themselves because they have no choice, but imagine if everyone saw it as a preferred choice instead of an outcome of the fear of being replaceable?

All of the above isn’t to say that there are’t any education systems around the world that have made “learning” their core mission, for example Finland has put it front and center, but there aren’t that many of them.

This is important, because the leaders and organizations of the future will not be bound by knowledge; every person and organization will at some point face the fact that they’re irrelevant. The only way out of that is to reinvent oneself, and constant learning is the way to do so.

Education is not learning, it’s just the start. But, for the whole thing to change we must reward learners over knowers because the future rewards those who learn and adapt, not those who embrace stability and comfort.

Also published on Medium.