Everyone wants to feel smart nowadays. Smart is the new sexy, right? Sometimes, even if you are smart, you are not going to be recognised as such for the simple fact that you have not graduated from Harvard or Oxford. This is what good education means for a lot of people. However, in this article, we are not going to be satisfied with such an oversimplified answer. In fact, we are going to prove this wrong – and more.

We are going to:

  • Define what good education means.
  • Pinpoint when good education becomes bad education
  • Have a final say on what the ideal education is

What does ”good” education mean?


Library with lots of books.

We often think of people who enjoyed a good education as knowledgeable. However, what do they know a lot about, exactly? Let us say that someone is an international relations major and is a graduate of some reputable university. In the United States, a bachelor’s degree takes four years to accomplish. How can someone know so much in such a limited period of time as four years?

It all depends on the bar you set for yourself as ”high”. If you think four years is a lot of time, you are probably right in saying that a university graduate is highly educated. If, on the other hand, you think that four years is little time for a person to gain a lot of knowledge, you are probably right, too.


University of Oxford, England. Quality education.

This is what a lot of people think of as ”good” education. If you enrol in a reputable university like Harvard, Yale, Oxford or Cambridge, you surely will get the finest education. After all, the best universities attract the best professors and design the finest courses, right?

Not so much.

While some universities do have a ”better” reputation, they do not guarantee you the best education. First of all, we are taking students’ individual differences completely out of the picture. Some students are high achievers and others are not. Some graduate with honours and others do not. Therefore, not all of them get the same quality education within quality education. Is an honors student from a recognised but not so reputable university better educated than a non-honors student from Stanford?

We can make all kinds of comparisons, but the popular belief is that a better university means a better education. This can be wrong due to individual differences in ability and achievement among both students and professors across different universities.

Just because someone does not have enough money to afford an elite university does not make them less able or less smart. However, the hefty fees reputable universities require as part of enrolement fosters the notion that the poorer are ”less educated”.

Range width

Cascades. Wide-ranging education.

Let us say that you graduated in chemistry from an elite university. Should we consider you ”well-educated” or well-educated in chemistry?

When you really think about it, a good education means a well-rounded education, which should cover everything from languages, literature and law to science, politics and even nutrition. In other words, a good education is balanced. It does not focus on one field of knowledge to the exclusion of others.

So, how can you be well-educated when you know so much about chemistry while you do little to nothing about law and citizen rights? How about if you travel to France and you happen to need help but you cannot get it because you cannot speak French? English will not save you all the time. If you are a well-educated person, you should speak at least one foreign language.

It is more accurate to say that you are highly educated in chemistry because most of your knowledge is speicalised. Being highly educated is different since it clearly implies a good understanding of different fields of knowledge.


Silver briefcase full of money. Profitable education.

People with a materialistic view of education are big fans of this view. You learn something to profit from it. Education, then, is a means to an end — money.

If you spend large chunks of your life on studying, you should at least get a financial reward for it. Otherwise, what good is it? You would not pay gas and electric bills composing a shakespearean poem, would you?

Good education should have the potential to yield a good profit. The more profit an education has the potential to make you, the better it is.

The best education yields the most profit.


Wrenches. Practical education.

A good edcuation is one that helps with everyday life activities. The focus is on functioning effectively in virtually everything we do; from dressing, communicating and time management to fixing a flat tire, mowing the lawn and writing a eulogy. Therefore, education should make our everyday lives both easier and more effective.

If you are in the middle of nowhere and you want to find your way back to civilisation, you will only be able to if you know how to tell directions using the stars. If you get attacked at knifepoint, you will do a much better job defending yourself if you received a practical education than someone who did not.

A good education helps us do things better.

When good education becomes bad education


Brain electroshock. Brainwashing.

Bad education can often come under the guise of good education. A lot of schools, for instance, ignore some parts of history while they overstress others. In other cases, schools avoid teaching certain theories (e.g. evolution) or teaching certain subjects (e.g. sex education).

”Good” education becomes a means to mold minds into thinking and behaving in ways that meet the interests of the political elite. Should the interest of the state not lie in that of the student? Does the state not want to help people think objectively and critically by the time they mature, even if they do not make it to university?

According to 2020 statistics, only 37.5 percent of the U.S. population aged 25 and above are university graduates. Since most of the public does not make it to tertiary education, it is the more reason to focus on improving the quality of non-tertiary education. However, apparently, the state wants to provide good brainwashing instead.


A small piece of cake.

We already talked about how education became more and more ”specialised”. This means that someone usually graduates from university well versed in a specific field of knowledge but knows almost nothing about anything else. It is true that the more human resources we dedicate to a field, the faster it develops. However, this does not necessarily mean completely abandoning all other fields of knowledge.

It is worth mentioning that some fields are more interdisciplinary than others, especially the human sciences. People who major in the human sciences are lucky because of this. If psychology is your major, you will have to learn about sociology, biology and even cultural studies to understand human behaviour.

It is great to specialise in a certain field of knowledge, but excluding others limits your potential to become not only a more educated but a more interesting person, too.

Final word: the ideal education


The ideal education ticks all the boxes. It is thorough, wide-ranging, profitable and practical. It includes virtually every aspect of our lives. This cannot happen in a span of a few months, years or even decades. Nobody can know everything, and so it is more of a lifelong journey.

No matter what you want to achieve with your education, bear in mind that it is just the beginning of a long learning journey. This is the attitude schools should instill in students so as to ensure their journey does not end as soon as they leave the walls of the classroom.

Unfortunately, a lot of people associate education with boredom because of the admittedly boring ways some teachers teach. This in turn influences their attitude to learning in general. Humans are naturally curious, and so it is not learning that people do not like, but the way it is done in schools.

When schools start taking students’ learning preferences into consideration, they will be able to empower them with the best education in the world — the passion to keep learning forever.

One thought on “Just what in the world does good education mean!”
  1. I’ve heard that Finland and Sweden have the best education systems at the moment. Guess the world should learn from them!

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