Why do we study?

When it comes to the word ‘study’, everybody associate it with going to school that gives unpleasant feelings. And if we think about it, why do we actually go to school and study if we don’t like it at all? I asked some of my students why they study and go to school and at first their answers were all the same.

“Because I have to.” “Because my parents force me to.”

Then when I push them to think further they start to give more reasonable answers that affect them.

“Because I want to have a good job, earn good money, buy house, car. I don’t want to be poor.”

“Because I can gain more knowledge and have a topic to talk to people.”

“Because I don’t want people to look down on me.”

“Because it’s humiliating to get bad grades.”

When I asked them more precisely like “what is a good job for them” or “what is a good money” or just simply keep asking them why, they cannot answer. And it’s normal.

When we are child  we are not exactly sure what we want to do. We only have ideas and it keeps changing. However, we need to have those ideas in order to keep going on. As a child who starts school at age of 6 have to wake up and go to school by 8am, sit in one place for straight 45 minutes, can only talk when she is allowed to and can only eat in 15 minutes break and suddenly get scold for not being able to answer teacher’s question, it’s just nonsense for them what all that is about.

In the very beginning, it’s still new for them so they feel excited but by time they start to question the reason they are at school. As parents, teacher and adults they can only tell children that it’s for their future to have a good life. However it’s really rare that any of them would spend quality time with the children to figure out it’s real purpose. And that is reflected in the answer they first gave me by saying “Because I have to“.

Film that changed the meaning

Nowadays I watched a Korean drama called “The Queen’s classroom“. The plot is about a teacher teaching 6 grades students by showing them how the real world look like. She acts like a politician, rewards children who do well in class and listen to her and humiliate those who don’t. The film really hit me so hard and I love everytime the teacher teach them wisdom.

Once the student asked her “What is studying about?”.

She told them “It wasn’t about the textbook, or the scores. That’s nonsense. When you are curious about something and want to find out the answer, that process is called studying.”

When people say “we study until we die“, it means we keep getting curious about something and we want to figure out what it really is. The process of satisfying our curiosity is what called studying. Therefore the word “study” shouldn’t be limited to the meaning of going to school listening to lecture.

My experience

My case is not different from the children. It took me 19 years to figure out why I study at school. That time I had a lesson called “Chinese art history” and I had never understood what it was about until I went to British Museum in London and saw all those objects we studied in the class. It was so nice to look at them knowing their meaning.

However, by realizing the reason and seeing result doesn’t mean I like it. Nowadays I’m struggling with the Master studies as I don’t see the meaning in it. When I watched that part of the film, the teacher concluded her speech by saying “Going to school is not obligatory. It’s a privilege.”

My point of view towards studying at school changed. Instead of looking at it as something I must do to get a good score and degree, I take it as journey to gain knowledge. It’s not about the score, but about the knowledge. And it has been a whole lot easier to sit over the book since then.

Studying is a choice

I told my students that they don’t have to study if they don’t want to. It’s their choice. Of course they have to go to school because that’s law. But they can choose to just sit in class and do nothing. Or they can make the most out of it. They don’t see the sense of a subject, I brainstorm with them to find a meaning in it. That way they don’t have to waste that 12 years in compulsory education and they can have the basic knowledge relating to their every day life.

For everyone who is still at school, it’s not obligatory to study there. You can go out to the world and gain more practical experience. Being at school is a privilege for learning. If you are already there, then make the most out of it. Don’t just simply go for a degree but for a knowledge.

For the parents and teacher, it is advisable to show the purpose of going to school to the children. Instead of saying simply “You study for your own good“, show them how they can use that knowledge in real life. When you see they are totally lost, ask them “Why do you study?“, and encourage them to think beyond the fact that it’s obligatory. Then brainstorm with them how to make it useful and practical.

Because it’s much easier to do something when you know the reason why you do it.

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