Welcome aboard the Education Express, kid…
Hurry up, kid, don’t look so nonchalant. You nearly missed the train – and that would have been catastrophic for you. You must take this very, very seriously. Your entire life is at stake.
I am your ticket inspector. Show me your ticket, please…
Very good. It seems you have been getting good grades so far. And your parents can afford the ticket. Consider yourself lucky. Most don’t make it to this point. Look at all the faces peering in outside the train station. A life of poverty and misery awaits them.
Now then, pay attention. You have a couple of minutes before we board. Listen carefully to this briefing.
You are about to board the Education Express. This is an exclusive train open only to those with the right credentials. Please board carefully and go to your designated seat. Once boarding is complete, you will meet your teachers. You must study many, many subjects on this leg of the journey. You must pay attention at all times. When the bell rings, you must stop what you are doing and start studying something else, as per the schedule. The schedule is sacrosanct. Don’t question it.
What’s that? No, you can’t choose your subjects. Most are compulsory. Your betters have deemed them necessary for your edification. Teachers? No, you can’t choose your teachers either. We have chosen them for you. I see you have a questioning nature. Please control it henceforth. It does not help you in any way to ask too many questions.
The train will chug through some very interesting landscapes, but you must not look out of the window. Look only at your teachers or your books. The scenery is a distraction. Your job, your only job, is to get the top grades in the examination that will come your way at the end of this leg of the journey.
The train will come to its first stop at the end of the examination. If you get good grades, you will be allowed to proceed with the rest of the journey. Most passengers will not proceed – they will be forced off the train at that station, and will be sent back into the wilderness. Please don’t be one of them. The wilderness is for dropouts, hustlers and criminals. It’s wild.
If you are one of the few still proceeding, you will now prepare for a new examination. This entails fewer subjects. Before you ask, yes, you get some choice in your subjects this time. But not much. We have crafted the correct combinations for you. We know best, remember.
Again, don’t look out of the window, don’t dream, don’t speculate. Follow the bells. Absorb what you are told. Answer questions in the way taught to you. Don’t try your own way of answering. Do lots of practice questions. The whole point is to clock the best possible grades in the examination that will come at the end of that leg. Because?
Yes, you got it. At the station after that exam, a whole new bunch of you will be moved to the back and thrown out of the train. An even smaller number will proceed on the rest of the education journey.
After that: more examinations; more stations. If you mess up at any point, you leave the train. Got it? All clear? This train runs on fixed tracks, laid a century ago. We still run on the same ones. The trains are little more modern, sure, but the train sticks to the tracks. All the stations are known in advance. You get the grades, you get to keep going.
At the final station, your education journey will be complete and you will be given a new ticket. This ticket is very valuable – don’t lose it. It is the ticket of life. It will provide you with entry into the interview halls of the biggest and best organizations. It will give you consideration for the best jobs and careers. Without that ticket, no one will give you a second glance.
Right then, you may start to board. What’s that? More questions? Really. No, there is no alternative railway – just the wilderness, where the savages roam. Will the studying you do on the train help you later in life? Irrelevant. The process is a test, to weed out the undeserving and let the most obedient ones proceed. There isn’t space for everyone at the end.
Off you go. Straighten your tie. Do as you’re told, and you’ll be just fine.
(Sunday Nation, 8 December 2019)