Education Examined: Blooming Many Different Flowers

“Today is final exam day. The teacher hands out the test to the students and leaves the classroom. Serious-looking students are solving problems by checking textbooks or reference books, or by searching for information using a personal computer or smartphone. In the Information Age, testing students on textbook contents that they’ve memorized word for word is a long-outdated approach.

With 20 minutes left before the test ends, it’s time to collaborate on group problems. Students form teams of five to discuss and solve group problems, which have a high degree of difficulty. When the ending bell rings, students smile cheerfully and give each other high fives.

A few days later, the teacher enters the class carrying the final exam grades. Student faces are full of confidence–there is no tension here–as if they already know the results. The teacher finally speaks, ‘You all got 100 on this final exam.’ The students cheer, applaud, and hug each other.”

In what country could you find this happy scene? So far, it may only be a picture in my own brain. But when I think about the state of education, especially in my native South Korea, I want to find a way schools can teach the whole child and make this scenario a reality. Ultimately education should create happy students and happy families. If neither students, nor teachers, nor parents—those primarily engaged in the educational process–are happy, then there is a fundamental problem with their system of education.

Ilchi Lee with elementary school students at a Bronx school

In Korea, the United States, and many other countries, one of the main problems is the tendency to teach for regional or national standardized tests. This kind of focus on standardized tests fosters an education system with competitiveness and conformity as its values rather than cooperation and creativity. It doesn’t leave much time for physical education, arts education, or the development of character and ethics. More and more young people are suffering from early-onset of chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure because they are eating too much and too poorly, and exercising too little. When questioned, many of our students count money as the primary source of happiness, and have lost respect for their teachers. For many, it seems like a zero sum game: if they don’t make it to college, today’s youth face social stigma and significantly lower wages than their college-bound counterparts. While many adults may agree that these educational issues are serious problems, there is inadequate research and agreement on how to solve them.

First, let us agree on a core educational ideology.

Having a positive educational ideology will guide us in our analysis and help us derive the values we want to strive for in an education system. I think the core educational ideology should be to create “Hongik Humans”. A Hongik Human is a healthy, capable, conscientious, and empathetic person with dreams and a guiding ideal. Such an ideology comprises fair competition, excellence, character, and morality.

Most importantly, it’s an ideal that allows students to discover and acknowledge their own existential value through which they can love and respect themselves. Once that happens, students gain the confidence to make the most of their abilities.

Second, let us integrate neurophysiological and neuropsychological findings.

The purpose of education is to develop talented people. There is an old saying: “Knowing isn’t as good as liking, and liking isn’t as good as enjoying.” If you like something, you will learn it automatically. For both learning and teaching, let us engage in education that results in the secretion of a lot of hormones that make us joyful and happy.

Creativity is manifested when the brain is enjoying itself. Education that involves having to solve problems assigned by others using memorized information, without even knowing one’s own aptitudes, is a system that is already far behind the times. The self-directed, problem-based, creativity-developing learning of which advanced education systems boast is the kind that the human brain likes and that makes best use of the brain’s abilities.

Third, let us create a system suited to the Information Technology Age.

We need a shift in our ideas. Why shouldn’t all students get 100s? Let’s make it so that anyone can get 80 points or better on school tests as long as they have the ability to search for and assess information. That’s enough for them to be able to go into their communities and perform with excellence the tasks required by their work. And there’ll be no need to worry about a decline in academic ability if 20 points reflect an assessment of their ability to create information.

If we base our education system on the Hongik Human ideology and neuroscientific principles, while making good use of Information Technology, we can develop the best education system for creating happy, creative, and productive children.

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5 Comments. Leave new

  • Many parents home school their children allowing them to bypass this outdated system. In our society education isn’t given a high priority and teachers are generally not paid well. This often leads to a lack of creativity and innovation. For society to change, people will need to begin to value education more.

  • My son loved anything to do with the military when he started playing these video games. He learned everything. He studied gun books, the uniforms from the different brigades… I can’t even go into as much detail as he could, it was amazing. Everyone told me I should stop it and not allow it. But he was so good at it, he was teaching adults and leading adults from all around the world into combat online. I couldn’t stop that. Instead I showed him some movies that more accurately depicted the life of a soldier and then he said, “Is that what its really like? I’m just a kid. This is just for fun. I don’t really want to join the military.” Now he is into cars so its on to car shows, he’s on the internet researching cars, friends are taking him to dealerships to test drive cars and discussing the different vehicles, and he checks out all the cars as we drive around. The car salesman said he’s better at selling cars and knows more about cars than him. He asks me everyday what my favorite car is. Once I told him it was the farrari because of a physical experience I had being near one and later found out they were hand made. But today he asked again and I told him “I haven’t found it yet. I want a car that will drive on all land, on the water, in the water, in the air, and in space. Maybe you can invent one like that for me.” Yet in school he’s average and acts like a clown. He just wants to have fun. But today he did 30 push-ups, recalled Water Up, Fire Down, and learned about his happy organs and told them he loved them. And he’s constantly making better food choices. I’m hoping to bring this education to his school because he is going to an experimental magnet school and I like this school the most so far (out of 3 schools he’s been to). Cosmic Energy and Love to all of you!!! Thanks for allowing me to share.

  • Education is a team effort of parents, teachers, administrators, children and volunteers. I believe the most important aspect is to be open to new learning and teaching methods. The willingness to learn from others is encouraged by making the experience of learning a positive one and therefore encouraging youth to seek out learning as a life long choice. The brain will create long-term memories by attaching positive or negative emotions to an experience. By making learning fun, students are able to retain the information learned for a long time period and most importantly it will create a positive memory for learning in general. I see children that are excited to go to school because it is a highlight of their day.

  • As a classroom teacher for 27 years, I can tell you that education is highly political, it is also in a constant state of change with new programs and philosophies coming and going. The system lacks true transparency in finances and pedagogy. Education doesn’t need to be reformed in needs to be reinvented from the bottom up. The first place to start is getting rid of the agricultural calendar.
    Using the Hongik Human ideology and neuroscientific principles would certainly be a step in the right direction. The question is will the public be ready for what needs to be done.

  • I feel energized and hopeful after reading Ilchi Lee’s take on education. Yes — this is (or should be) the true purpose of education, to nurture our innate brain potential to create productive, loving and peaceful citizens who want to make the world a better place. As a former elementary school teacher, I am proud to work with families and schoools, teaching them how to utilize Brain Education programs to help each member of the school or family become their best. It is my hope and belief that this philosophy and practice will help us create a better world. Let’s do it!


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