The Workplace and Education Crisis


This article is entirely the author’s personal opinion based on his own experience and observations of what goes on in both schools and the workplace.


As Sir Ken Robinson commented that the current education was conceived and designed for a different age. He said that “It was conceived in the intellectual culture of enlightenment (academic ability) and in the economic circumstances of the industrial revolution”. He also said that “Education is modeled on the interests of industrialization (making profits) and in the image of it.”

He elaborated that schools are very much organized on factory lines such as ring bells, separate facilities, specialized into separate subjects, putting children together by age groups and educating them by batches. It about conformity for example standardized testing and standardized curriculum. He pointed that this is the wrong way and we need to go in the opposite direction.

Key Point

Sir Ken Robinson also spoke about divergent thinking. He said that this is different from thinking; rather it is an essential capacity for creativity. It is the ability to see lots of answers to a question and lot of answer to interpret a question. He commented that children are born with this capacity but it gradually deteriorates.

The way I interpret this is that by the time children got through the education system, they lose much of that capacity for them to innovate. I regard this as a great crisis for mankind because we lose out on a lot of beneficial discoveries and inventions that will help better our lives.

The Workplace Crisis: Questions I Ask Myself

If we looked at the workplace, it is experiencing the same crisis because the factory system started from here.

I noticed some similarities:

  • Separate subjects at school versus Separate department at work
  • Ring school bells versus Ring factory bells or clocking attendances
  • Standardized testing versus Education certificate job pre-requisites
  • Standardization curriculum versus Aligned policy and processes
  • Centralized education authority versus Headquarter imposed policies
  • Teachers who are able to teach well are badly needed versus Mentors required to coached the less experienced.
  • Dogmatic principals (not all principals) versus Organizational head that enforces command and control (not all organizational heads).

My question is whether is this the very reason why people are disengaged at the workplace and is this why authoritarian culture tend to be the most “un- innovative”? Is this reason why Peter Senge’s learning organization never take off?

What Should We Do?

In his TED Talk presentation “How to Escape Education’s Death Valley”, Sir Ken Robinson he said that there are three principles on which human life flourishes, and they are contradicted by the culture of education under which most teachers have to labor and most students have to endure. They are

  • Human beings are naturally different and diverse.
  • What drives human life flourishing is curiosity.
  • Human beings possess the inherent ability to think divergently.

These 3 principles took my memory back to Steve Jobs’ commencement at Stanford University on 12 June 2012. For the businessman or CEO or CFO who are skeptical, you may want to know that Business Insider Singapore reported on 30 April 2014 that Apple Inc generated $43.7 billion in sales during the first 3 months of 2014. It has 150.6 Billion in cash. It could go on a shopping spree to buy Netflix, Tesla, Dropbox, Pandora, Spotify and have $59 billion left. Can you beat that?

Here are some sentences that I had took out of that speech. You can see the manifestations of Sir Ken Robinson’s 3 principles. It provide some clue that we need to head in the same direction pointed out by him in rethinking how businesses are being run.

  • The first story is about connecting the dots.
  • The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
  • And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.
  • I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20.
  • And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started?I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
  • I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love.Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.
  • Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.
  • Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.

Highly Recommended Watching and Reading

You can hear Sir Ken Robinson speak on Youtube and you can google for the transcript of his talk by searching for

RSA Animate: Changing Education Paradigms

How to Escape Education’s Death Valley

You can also hear Steve Jobs Commencement address at Stanford University on 12 June 2012 on you tube and the transcript at Stanford News.