What’s Wrong With Education?

In this episode of the iTeachEM podcast Rob discusses what’s wrong with education and some thoughts on how we can start to fix the system. From the education of our children to the training of residents and registrars in emergency medicine/critical care, we have lost control of the system and we need to gain control on the most intelligent way to educate.


Here are some random thoughts on education and why I think it’s so screwed up…

1. We are a textbook and lecture driven education society. This is not how kids and adults learn best!

2. We are very focused (TOO focused on test scores and getting good grades). We train our children at a very young age to focus on the result and not the process of learning. The result: young adults with good test scores, degrees, without the ability to be creative and innovative thinkers. Bad. It drives me absolutely crazy that test scores have become more important than a solid understanding of the subjects and how they all interact in our crazy, chaotic world. A high MCAT or SAT socre may look good on paper, but it is meaningless if it doesn’t indicate a deeper understanding of subjects. It’s a very tough, sometimes impossible, system to change.

3. We have a very linear way of teaching. This subject then the next then the next. Learning isn’t linear in many instances.

4. The current education system isn’t really set up to help the slower learners catch up and challenge the faster learners. This is the classic “herd mentality” of education. Move the cattle through at the same pace.

5. We focus too much on math and science and downplay the other subjects like art, music, and dance.  Sure, math and science are really important, but the jobs of the future will only support a workforce that has adaptability and creative and innovative potential. If you need more convincing that we need to take a serious look at the subjects we teach just watch this quick TED talk given by Ken Robinson. Brilliant. This will make you rethink the way the system is designed.

6. Our current system is filled with the “swiss cheese” model of learning. Salman Khan, creator of the Khan Academy and author of the One World Schoolhouse-Education Reimagined, has noted that many learners develop “holes” in their education, or gaps in knowledge and/or understanding. The main issue is that the system isn’t designed to fill in those “holes,” and the holes sometimes persist for years and are sometimes permanent.

7. In my opinion,  teachers standing up in front of the class lecturing is a dead model of teaching. We know students, most of them, don’t learn like this. Many school systems have changed the way they do this, but most have not.


 An iTeachEM challenge and homework assignment…


1. Challenge the system. Consider the way we teach trainees in emergency medicine/critical care. Can we do a better job? Should we lecture as much as we do? Are we motivating and inspiring or just dishing out lecture after lecture. For those of you with children, think outside the box and help them come to grips with the fact that it isn’t all about test scores. It’s tough to fight the current educational structure, but it has to be done. I don’t want to tell you how to parent, but I would strongly recommend instilling in your children a sense that learning, creativity, innovation, and adaptability are more important than a stupid test score.

2. Read The One World School House-by Salman Khan. This book will change the way you think about education.

3. Watch Ken Robinson’s videos on the TED website and YouTube. He has three very motivating talks that will get you fired up about teaching and learning.

Happy Teaching!



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