One thing that Piet and I have discussed on occasion is education and our opinions of it regarding any future BelgAmericans we will eventually produce. Education here is different from the U.S. and in many ways, from what I can tell, it’s far superior. I could go into how that turd W. destroyed American education with his No Child Left Behind travesty or how disappointed I am in the current Obama administration for not bothering to address the complete joke that is America’s public school system, but that would just dissolve into an acid-tongued tangent of pointless vent, so I won’t go there.
Anyway, in Belgium most people choose to send their children to either a state funded public school or a state funded private school. Both receive money from the state, but from what I understand, the private schools sort of have the right to make a kid leave if he/she isn’t performing to a certain standard of academia. The public schools have to take and keep everyone. Piet attended a private school and is of the opinion that any offspring of ours, assuming they go to school in Belgium, are best off in a private school as well.
I like the idea of the private schools here because there isn’t any tuition (unlike the salary suckers in the U.S.) and also because some of them have nifty uniforms which are not only cute, but in my opinion, go a long way to taking the focus off of appearances that tends to crop up once puberty arrives. That and it’ll save on wardrobe costs if the kids wear basically the same thing 5 days a week.
What I don’t like is the manner in which the information is taught in the private schools. A massive amount of information is given to the kids and they have to memorize it and then spit it back out on tests. From what I’ve heard there is very little class discussion or room for students to discuss their own opinions. They learn the information, they apply it to a given situation on an exam, they either pass or fail.
Which is why, I think, while there are indeed a plethora of highly knowledgeable, educated individuals here in Flanders, the majority of them are often very set in their ways and, in my (and other expat opinions) are significantly stunted when it comes to social interaction with people en masse.
Anyway, I’m more in favor, at least in Belgium, of sending children to a Montessori school, or somewhere where they will be evaluated on their individualism and personal strengths as opposed to how well they can force themselves into the standard Flemish methods of education.
When I made that clear though, Piet shook his head and said simply that children who spend their later years (maybe 10-17 years old) in schools like Montessori or other alternative schools have almost a nil percent chance of succeeding in Flemish universities.
And I’ll admit, that shut me up quick.
I come from a family that stresses a university education and both Piet and I come from countries that put huge emphasis on receiving university degrees in order to be successful occupationally. My first reaction was to give in and agree that we should do what we could to have our kids do their best in university.
But this morning I was thinking more about it, and I realized…who cares about a stupid piece of paper that basically states that you are “officially skilled” in academic thought?
I have a college degree and it has gotten me nothing. My bachelors is in psychology, which I promptly decided I hated when I was 3 years into studying. I’ve done nothing with it and can do nothing with it here. It has actually given me problems in searching for a job because I was often considered too skilled for the jobs my language abilities limited me to and I had no practical training for anything my language abilities would allow me to do.
Similarly, I have an Egyptian colleague with a journalism degree that he is unable to use in Belgium. All those years he spent studying and he’s never been able to use any of it since he left Egypt. University degrees, both of us, and we’re working in a coffee kiosk in a train station.
Had I chosen to go to tech school or to be a salon specialist, or something along those lines, I have no doubt I’d have been employed longer in the U.S. and been able to find a job much easier here in Belgium. Unlike the state funded daycares here, I wouldn’t have to write essays on a high school graduates level in order to be eligible to work in a salon or something along those lines.
So, in reality, is a university degree really so important? Why be so set in sending our children off into the political games and chest puffing of academia when they could be much happier and financially secure by going to an alternative school and then studying to be an electrician or a carpenter?
Western countries have become so obsessed with highly educating their masses that they are now running short on skilled manual labor. The demand is always high and in places like Belgium, people are payed extremely well for their labor. As long as the human race uses indoor plumbing or light bulbs, they’ll need other people who are trained to repair and replace it.
I think I’d be more than happy to have my children be those people. They’re a lot more important than us academics give them credit for.