Four Fatal Deficiencies in our Formal Education Featured

By Dr Mai Samir May 24, 2023 8001

The accelerating events during the past years and after the “Covid 19” pandemic imposed on the global and Arab arena crucial questions about formal education, after the conditions of the pandemic imposed the idea of distance learning using modern technology. This led to the massive abandonment of the traditional form of formal education in schools and universities and opened the door wide for a comprehensive re-evaluation of the entire formal educational process.

The United Nations defines formal education as institutional, intended, and specified education by recognized public institutions and private bodies, which constitute a country's official educational system. Thus, formal educational programs are recognized in this official capacity by the competent national educational authorities or their equivalent. It is a systematic education with unified or semi-unified curricula. It usually ends with official qualifications or certificates recognized by the state for the various educational stages within its national qualification framework.


There are other types of learning such as semi-formal education in which the student studies a structured curriculum but without the obligation of daily classroom attendance. In this type of education, students often end up with the same qualifications and certificates as formal education. As for non-formal education, the child learns skills and information in an unorganized manner and does not eventually obtain a certificate or qualification.


History of formal regular education

Regular schools have a long history that may go back to BC, when the Greeks established schools of philosophy called academies, while others attribute credit to the American Horace Mann (1796-1859) for establishing the first regular school in the United States of America.

As for the Arab and Islamic world, the Nizamiyya School took its name from the Seljuk Minister of State Nizam al-Malik al-Tusi, who is credited with establishing the Nizamiyya Schools in Baghdad, Isfahan, Nishapur and Merv. The schools of Minister Nizam al-Mulk focused on teaching jurisprudence and hadith, and they are considered the first formal schools organized in the history of Islam. Dozens of leading Muslim jurists and thinkers taught there, such as Hujjat al-Islam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, the Imam of the Two Holy Mosques Abu al-Maali al-Juwayni, and others.

Disadvantages of formal education

Formal education has advantages represented in equality for all to obtain equal and fair opportunities for learning, and in fighting ignorance and poverty by giving the lower classes a gateway to social, cultural and economic advancement, as well as in providing some skills to the student. However, many studies have begun to question the feasibility of formal education in schools after the huge knowledge revolution and advanced means of learning presented by modern technology. These studies intensified after the “Covid 19” pandemic, and the following are the most important findings of studies regarding the disadvantages of traditional formal education in our changing world:

1- Authoritarianism:

The formal institutions of education are usually those that decide for the student in advance on his behalf what to study and what not to study. It is the one who decides what is important and what is not important in terms of information, skills, and methods, and it is she who decides the methods that it deems most appropriate to achieve the goals that it has set individually.

Hence, what the students learn in the classroom did not have a role in choosing it or determining whether those topics are of interest to them or compatible with their tendencies and skills or not, which reduces students' motivation and increases the unattractiveness of traditional formal education.

2- Separation from reality:

  The world is experiencing rapidly changing labour markets in terms of needs, demands and jobs, which are highly competitive and highly specialized. However, traditional educational institutions are characterized by slowness, rigidity, and poor response to the ever-changing and highly complex labour market requirements, such that school and university information and skills no longer meet the requirements of the labour market. As a result, the gap between school and society widened, and the formal education graduates were financially and morally burdened by searching for additional non-formal education besides their enrollment in formal education to support themselves with the real skills, specializations, and qualifications needed for the labor market.

3- Lack of respect for multiple intelligences:

Since the curricula are standardized, individual differences are not taken into account by those responsible for the educational process. The formal educational system relies on absolute equality between students, without paying attention to the students' multiple intelligence ratios or diverse skills that make some of them faster in understanding some topics and information than others.

The traditional education system relies on the classical theory of defining intelligence as "the ability to quickly adapt to a novel situation". Thus, this theory limits intelligence to the mental aspects and mathematical operations. In fact, in 1983, the scientist Howard Gardens was able to develop a revolutionary theory of multiple intelligences that refused to limit human intelligence to one aspect, and revealed the existence of diverse intelligences that vary in strength and weakness in every human being. Thus, the focus on paying attention, performing arithmetic, or memorizing a collection of verses of poetry implies a great deal of unfairness towards students with higher intelligence in social, musical, or mathematical skills, as formal education does not measure these abilities mainly within its curricula.

4- Killing creativity and skills:

All the aforementioned points result in an essential conclusion that formal regular education thwarts individual creative skills and abilities by imposing a unified curriculum of study and a single system of assessment. Systematic school education encourages memorization more than understanding and focuses on accumulating points and grades to pass exams without regard for the scientific process and the practical benefit of students and building their real-life experiences and skills.

As a result of these drawbacks, which are particularly severe in our Arab world, formal regular education, in general, has become conventional in a way that has kept students from enjoying the educational process and a real understanding of the benefits of learning. It has become just a traditional, official certificate of social prestige devoid of any real scientific or practical interest. This has led many students and parents to lose purpose and passion for learning and to turn towards alternative ways to obtain a real portion of learning, whether through electronic platforms, paid lessons, or even travelling abroad. There is no room for real educational development without a comprehensive re-evaluation of the educational process, its philosophy and objectives, and re-linking it to the labour market and the needs of society and the development of skills, abilities and life experiences.













Last modified on Wednesday, 24 May 2023 12:16