Homo Educandus. Why Our School System Is Broken and What We Can Do about It

Jan Bransen, Homo Educandus. Why Our School System Is Broken and What We Can Do About It. Nijmegen: Radboud University Press, 2021.

Linnaeus made a mistake when he named us Homo sapiens, the wise man. We’re not. We do too many stupid, destructive and irresponsible things to deserve that name. We need to be educated. Fortunately, we can be educated; we can transform ourselves. We are Homo educandus. We educate ourselves. 

However, our current school system is broken. It doesn’t support education. It malforms. This is what Jan Bransen argues in this book. According to him, our current school system is based on five incoherent ideas. It erroneously assumes (1) that people need to study for years before they are ready to take part in society, (2) that the acquisition of knowledge should take place in small incremental chunks that are continuously tested, (3) that teachers teach and that their teaching leads to students learning, (4) that certificates are important for a person’s self-esteem, and (5) that the quality of education is determined by its outcomes both for the students and for society. In the first part of the book, Bransen convincingly shows us that these misapprehensions actually do more harm than good.

But we can do better. There is reason to be optimistic and inspirational. We can improve our education system; we can organise our education such that it suits us, and that it edifies us. 

Improved education is the subject of the second part of the book, which asserts (1) that primary education should be mostly about confidence building, so that children can learn to voice their opinion, (2) that secondary education should take place both at school and outside of school, so that young people can learn to establish a position in society in which they matter, and (3) that it is better to organise all higher education into dual tracks, so that learning and working are combined, and postgraduate education can take place in the right place and at the right moment.