Everyone espouses the benefits and relevance of education to the individual and society. The word education is synonymous to growth. Humanity advances with the continual education of men and their eternal strife to learn new things, discover new ideas, and invent new machines. The educated person is accorded a sense of respect by his peers and the community where he comes from and is given more chances for mobility that are not as accessible to those who are not able to get any schooling. Society regards education highly because it trains individuals to become productive members after they finish the requisite years and experiences while enrolled in an educational institution.
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Education is training. It equips the future worker or professional with the adequate theoretical and practical skills he would need in his future profession. In school, the future professional learns the basic. Development and the emergence of new discoveries in every profession would depend upon learners who have mastered the basics since only when one has mastered them could he improve or change them for the better. The training of the individual could either happen in a physical school or, as a product of the computer age, in a virtual environment. Both trains a learner differently and people have differing opinions specifically as to whether distance learning is as effective as regular schooling.
Education does not end when the individual graduates from college or university. He learns a lot more afterwards and most companies even retrain employees. An important aspect of education happens outside the classroom but the experience of moving around the school environment approximates and readies the individual for the workplace. Distance learning, like conventional education, provides the distance learner with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills he would need in the future. What he would miss, however, are the life lessons that one learns in school like socializing, interacting with peers, and facing and learning to deal with tough lessons on peer pressure, bullying, being accepted, romance, etc. The distance learner, in order to learn the same things, should have a life beyond the virtual classroom. Students of open universities are usually those who have work or any similar reason which keep them from attending regular school so this should not be an issue for them. Distance learning should not be undertaken because the learner is anti-social or could not interact with people. Education means learning the lessons from books, but real life should supplement the formal learning.
Distance learning cannot substitute the total educational experience that going to regular school could provide only if the distance learner has no other life beside his online school. Distance learning works for people who are already working and taking online classes to further their prospects in the job, to shift careers, or because they are full-time homemakers, they are way older than the average college student, or any similar valid reason. This is because they could attend parties at work or the neighborhood which could substitute for the college parties. They have inter-office sports fests which substitute for the college intramurals. And they have the overbearing boss which substitute for the terror teacher. They are not missing out on getting educated with life’s extra-curricular lessons that should accompany academic learning.
The purpose of education is the cultivation of intellect and character and it does not and should not only happen in the classroom, whether the classroom is real-life or virtual. Education is a holistic experience that involves studying books and learning theories in the classroom and facing real people and dealing with them and their individual eccentricities, whether these people have something to do with the school one is attending or not.
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