Education vs Learning: Here's the Difference & Why It Matters

Opinion Oct 30, 2020

Education is a medium for learning. Academic, religious, and government organizations are a significant part of education. It’s a social activity where knowledge is transferred from an institution to people.

Learning on the other hand is an individual process. Apart from education, one also learns from experience, critical thinking, and physical sense. So learning can be a subconscious activity.

People seek formal education to add credibility to their learnings and improve status. While learning is done to develop knowledge, skills, rationality, beliefs, actions, and judgments.

Education shouldn’t be confused with self-education. Self-education is deliberate learning done by a person using material sources: academic and non-academic. The pedagogy, curriculum, and tests if any are standard in education. But in self-education, learning is self-directed.

However, education can have a broader meaning. In the context of social interaction, being educated can mean showing civilized behavior. This article will ignore such broader interpretations. The focus will be on academic education for learning.

So why does it matter to distinguish between education and learning?

Education and learning are often used interchangeably, as if education is a synonym for learning. They can be similar but they aren't the same.

It’s misleading to think education is learning. Though education is a significant part of our learning, it is a limited contributor; we don't learn everything from education.

Many people argue that society has put an undue value on education and ignored learning. Critics say that education kills independent thinking. And acts as a cookie cutter to forcibly module all students the same way.

For example, the history what we learn at school is only a fraction of events that were recorded. The actual history is much vast and is never taught. But students assume that whatever is taught without questioning.

So is our education system plagued with indoctrination? Are we confusing indoctrination with education and learning?

According to Socrates the purpose of education is to foster rational inquiry using critical thinking. I think such philosophy is undervalued in our education system. Learning how to learn is the most important task of education but it seems like grades matter more.

I agree with Noam Chomsky  when he says, “...highest goal in life is to inquire and create. The purpose of education from that point of view is just to help people to learn on their own. It’s you the learner who is going to achieve in the course of education and it’s really up to you to determine how you’re going to master and use it.”

We can observe why this philosophy is more important than ever. Many educated people fall prey to false information on social media without questioning it.

So we need a better understanding and distinguish between learning and education. Learning is beyond education. But the primary goal of education should be to teach how to learn. Education is not an end in itself for learning.


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Bipin VK

Bipin is the co-founder of Savay app. He's passionate about building products that help people in learning, skill development, and productivity.