How Relevant Is Formal Education To Child Development?

(Written by Njideka Raleke-Obiora)

Fair Life Africa’s Disadvantage to Advantage initiative seeks out children with potential, but who are disadvantaged, and enrols them in educational and vocational institutions for learning and development.  Ten young children have now been assisted with payment of their school fees, owing to their excellent performances in academics.

Unfortunately, we are all aware of the prevalence of children dropping out of formal education because of various unfavourable conditions at home.  Many of these children are forced by life circumstances to seek jobs at an early age to contribute to the family income.  This is concerning to us, and we decided to examine the importance of formal education to a child’s development.

For the sake of our study, formal education refers to tutelage which occurs in a structured environment.  Usually formal education takes place in a school, with classrooms of multiple students learning together with a trained teacher.  Some schools of thought hold that the importance of formal education as a platform for success in life is mostly over-emphasised, while others believe that no matter what potentials or skills a child has, the wholesome development of every child must include a formal education of some sort, whether in academics or skills.

Fair Life Africa sought opinions of various child educators in Lagos, and they had the following to say;

Fidelia Obijiaku, a school owner and mother of five said that formal education cannot be over-emphasised.  She said that formal education is structured to help build the child’s confidence, preparing them for a great future.  Even if the formal education is not in a school setting, it helps build a strong society by developing the child’s social skills.  More so, formal education helps expose the child to a wide range of knowledge and behavioural patterns that are not solely influenced by family or community norms.  Similarly, Ronke Hassan says formal education helps mould the child’s future, and also makes them global citizens who are not limited to just their immediate environment or experiences of their family or religion.

Another child educator Shona Flannery says formal education is important as most parents might not have the skills to provide a full education for their children.  However, she believes that true Montessori should be the practice for children below 7, as it is child-centred to support the child’s strengths.

There is an apparent consensus that formal education is very important for a balanced child development especially in the society we live in.  Apart from it being a fundamental right of the child, it opens up opportunities for the child while growing up and later on in life.  It enriches their mind and teaches them to be curious most of all it helps develop their social skills.

However, when the structure and the opportunities are not there, is any education enough?  What are your thoughts?