Learning what you love
“These are supposed to be the best years of our lives!” – unhappy Iraqi Kurdistan university student
I hope, like me, that you feel something is wrong with the above statement.
Having been a university teacher in Kurdistan for many years now, I’ve been able to see some of the issues students have. For some, after studying quite intensely in high school, all they want is a break. For others, they find themselves forced to study a subject that wasn’t their first choice. Then there are the students who only seem to come to university for the social aspect. Somehow the sheer joy of learning seems to get lost.
University is not for everyone, but I believe education is. For some, taking a year off before university, if it could be made more socially acceptable, might provide the time to better determine one’s career path. In many countries, such as Australia, this is common. But there should also be the realization that many learned skills and trades are just as valuable to society, can pay more than many university degrees, and are more readily transferable if one moves abroad.
If you have come to university and do not have intellectual curiosity and find the academic side a drag, have you ever asked yourself what your goals in life are? Have you asked yourself why you are there? Have you ever thought about what kinds of activities you enjoy?
Learning takes place in many contexts, not just in a classroom where you take tests and earn grades.
A phrase we often hear in America is “follow your bliss”. It may sound trite, but there’s something to it. Those who study or work in something they are interested in and get excited about are more satisfied and have a greater chance of success.
With the rise of the Internet and on-line learning, education is accessible as never before. For example, the website for Khan Academy has a stated mission to provide “a free world-class education for anyone anywhere”. So for anyone who knows English and has an Internet connection, a first class high school education is available. MIT Opencourseware allows you to watch the same lectures as those attending the famous university, at no cost. Low-residency and purely on-line degree programs are rising in popularity and can provide accredited, world-recognized undergraduate and graduate degrees, albeit often for a lot of money. For those interested in a particular subject or skill, YouTube videos can show you how to do just about anything, from playing the piano to knitting.
So how about people who don’t know English? As a rising center of education, I’d like to see Sulaimani develop more programs that promote life-long learning, in the language of the people. We do have some now being offered by a range of government and non-governmental organizations, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could foster an environment where everyone with a skill would be able to teach others eager to learn it? I challenge the youth of the city to think of a framework for such development. In that way, learning could be enjoyed by all, and all of society would benefit.
Nancy Narbut 14/11/2013
Nancy Narbut is currently a Lecturer of Mathematics at the American University of Iraq – Sulaimani. She has been university teaching in Iraqi Kurdistan since 2005.
By: Nancy Narbut