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The Transformative Powers of Education

“To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Working at the British Broadcasting Corporation, assisting Oscar-winning film directors, and teaching on a billionaire’s luxury superyacht around the south of France: these were not opportunities I believed were possible when I was spending my weekends as a teen working at my parent’s Chinese takeaway. And as trite as it may sound, I owe it all to one simple thing: education.

Neither of my parents went to university and they both stressed to me how a lack of education limited their life choices. An appreciation of this reality dawned on me very quickly, from roughly age 13, when my childhood splintered into a double life spending weekdays as a pupil at an independent day school “where every child is known and valued”, and my weekend evenings serving stir-fried savory food to frequently unsavory characters.

Whilst I do not advocate my parents’ casual violation of child labour laws, it was an invaluable and influential experience to witness first hand the hard toil of my parents, as well as enduring the long, arduous, grease-covered hours myself. The futility of mopping floors at the end of a long Saturday night shift, knowing that they would inevitably get dirty again, would make anyone conscious of the importance of how a goal can provide meaning to your work.

But we must consider: what is the goal of education? All too often it is equated with the end product and a conveyor belt mentality that going to a “good school”, in turn will lead to a “good university” and therefore a “good job” and a “good salary”. But education is not merely academic and should not only be represented as a certificate, a grade, or a percentage; it is an experience that continues and grows with you well beyond graduation.

Of course, every parent wishes their children to have a bright future and to succeed, to become independent in the world, but success and fulfillment are definitions that are personal to everyone. And the problem with creating a solely achievement-based incentive is that you focus on the result, and not the process. Education becomes a binary concept of pass or fail, which is neither truthful nor inspiring: you may cultivate a thirst for knowledge, but will not instil a love of learning, which is key to any form of independence. And it is this independence and freedom to which education should be equated: freedom to decide what you want to do with your life, freedom to make choices, equippe