Is higher education based on lower education?

Unveiling the Wheat and Chaff Theory

We often get entangled in the semantics of education and everything surrounding it. Interestingly, one of these debates brings us to the question: Is higher education based on lower education? Not to let the cat out of the bag too soon, but spoiler alert, they are interrelated! But not in the way you might think. That's right, prepare to unlearn some things and to maybe, possibly, harrumph at a few points. Perhaps, in this journey, you may even need to "write my English paper" on the subject.

For starters, let me share this pleasingly strange mental picture I like to keep handy with you. Have you ever wondered why we talk about "higher" and "lower" education? Is there an educational elevator somewhere that I missed? Last time I checked, the knowledge doesn't sit in physical space! But we humans, oh, we love the metaphorical ladders. Think about rungs on a ladder; the top rung doesn't exist without the bottom one, and vice versa. Is this parallel applicable to our system of education? Perhaps.

Marrying the 'ABCs' to 'XYZs' of the Subject Matter

Most folks see lower or primary education as a foundation. We are laying the groundwork, as they say. Lower education teaches us the tools to interact with and understand the world. You learn education's three Rs (Reading, Writing, Arithmetic). Here's a fun fact to lighten up the pedagogic mood, did you know this 19th-century phrase doesn't even get the initials right? We are so desperate to make things easy to remember we overlook the blatant error! Anyway, I digress. Back to "lower education." It's the bedrock. Well, yes, but it's not just that. Lower education also teaches one life skills to nudge towards becoming a responsible and empathetic human being.

Now let's shimmy up the hypothetical education ladder to the "higher" rungs. We enter into the specialized niche, the subject-specific realms. Now we get to the part of education where we learn how to apply the basic skills of the lower section and expand into nuanced areas. Here is where society expects us to decide our life path, what we want to do, and who we want to be. No pressure there, right? I remember when I first entered university. I felt like Indiana Jones, setting off for a treasure hunt, armed with nothing but a desire to explore and an overpriced textbook. That's a story for another day, but the transition is exhilarating and nerve-racking in equal measures.

Cheeky Exceptions to the Rule

At this point, you must be grudgingly nodding in agreement and thinking, "Well, this makes sense." But here's some food for thought: Is it always applicable? Can we always safely say that higher education is based on lower education? The counter-intuitive reply to these rhetorical questions would be that not always.

Indeed, there are instances where individuals with minimal or no lower education ascend to the pinnacle of their respective fields, all without the crutch of organized lower education. I am not only referring to those select few sportspersons or artists who are naturally gifted. Take, for instance, numerous successful entrepreneurs who never completed formal education. They bucked the trend, didn't they? But before I trail into that argument, let me reconnect to our main thread.

The Overlapping Circles of Skillsets

We've been talking so much about ladders and levels; let's shift the narrative to a more pleasing geometry - circles. Imagine a Venn diagram. One circle represents the lower education, the other higher education. Of course, these circles overlap in the middle, where all the magic happens. The shared space is what makes us realize these two entities are not separate but interrelated.

This shared space encompasses competencies like critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, and communication. These skills are as important for a child entering school as a grad student working on a complex research project. Therefore, while each type of education has a unique set, the shared skills that blend form the foundation of the learning experience. As a child in school, I remember how we were encouraged to question, be curious, and communicate. These same traits were honed in higher learning but with a more professional and academic angle. The line between lower and higher is blurred here.

Riding the Seesaw of Knowledge

So, does higher education ride piggyback on lower education? The unambiguous answer is yes and no- a most satisfactory indecisive conclusion. But hear me out; they exist in a kind of symbiotic relationship. Trying to dissect one from the other is like determining which is more crucial, inhaling or exhaling. I attempted that once, way back during my school years. In case you are wondering, I ended up breathless with a newfound respect for the physiological balance.

Returning to education, lower and higher learning phases acknowledge and build upon each other. They feed off each other, strengthening the educational beam that supports an individual's potential and prospects. Personally, my higher educational experiences have been enriched by the seeds sown during my primary schooling years, and they keep growing even now as I continue to learn and unlearn. Aren't we all just lifelong learners, dancing to the rhythm of knowledge?

So, the next time someone tells you one is superior or tries to paint an either-or picture, remember my imaginary ladder and the Venn diagram. Each has a role, and both are equally important in the overall picture of human education.

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