by Byron Dolon
“What’s the point in learning this if we’re never going to use it in real life?”
Ironic, isn’t it? That kids will complain about learning things while they’re inside an institute of learning. (Been there, done that). But there is value to learning the things we do, at high school in general and specifically during the IB Diploma Programme. Going through high school has taught me that the process of learning inherently has value. Regardless of the content, learning in an IB environment involves critical thinking and depth of understanding, skills that are invaluable to making informed decisions in higher education and the workplace. But beyond this practical application, perhaps the most important takeaway from high school that students should have is a love of learning.
To put it simply, learning more about the world is good for you. I’ve been asked before, why someone who wants a future career in business should have to learn about photosynthesis in IB biology. Sure, it’s improbable that a venture capitalist will have to explain how water in cells splits adenosine triphosphate. (ha, jargon) But isn’t it valuable for everyone to know how your body produces energy or fights off diseases? Or why global warming is in fact real? Or how exactly periods work? (girls, thank me later). There are so many ways to bring content from inside the classroom to outside, if you are willing. Anything from using HL economics to allow for a better discussion of new monetary policy by the US Federal Reserve, to using HL psychology to attempt to put meaning to why everyone panics before the HL math exam.
Now, we’ve all been told that you need to be able to “think critically”. But how exactly is this taught by learning things that perhaps don’t have direct relevance to your everyday life? How I think (and how I did) approach learning things in IB is acquiring tools and learning how to use them for more complex things in the future. I’m sure many students may argue that learning to derive functions is not a skill they can quickly transfer to their lives. To them I’d say take my first year university microeconomics course and tell me how useful calculus is after you’ve finished calculating the marginal cost without it. Thinking critically, in this aspect, is something that can only be done when you have mastery of the fundamentals. This is something that became pronounced during my Organizational Behavior course. I was almost given a head-start by having taken HL Psychology, because so many of the concepts were related between the two subjects. Because I had already built a foundation of knowledge from Psychology, I was able not only to study more concepts, but weigh up the concepts given in the book for and judge for myself if they made sense or not. Having the basics allows you to evaluate and move to the complex.
I’d like to end by stressing the importance of having a lifelong passion for learning. This is the overarching thing that I took away from my IB and high school experience. It is incredibly boring to do things that you don’t enjoy. Having a love of learning is valuable because it gives you the freedom to learn new things without viewing learning as an obligation. I want to implore everyone, and most especially next year’s DP students, to find passion perhaps not for the specific subjects you are studying now, but for the process of learning that you’re going through. This passion for the learning will spur you in the future to go beyond memorizing formulas and diagrams for exams. When I take notes during lectures in university now, I have a special section on the top right corner of my page labeled “Food for Thought”. These are all the tidbits that come up during lectures, like quotes and tangents professors sometimes go on, that technically don’t have relevance for the exam, but are interesting enough to merit a Google search after class. This fascination with just learning new things is something that never would have happened had I not been opened to the world by IB. When you love acquiring knowledge, learning starts to feel less like a chore and more like a good time.