Recently, I asked this question on a reading test that I gave to my students.  Most of them had some good answers, being well-educated, but some of them were pretty lost.


“What is learning?”


Taken by Dean Ayres

My colleague said that he thought learning was becoming able to do something or gaining knowledge that was

practical.  Put simply, learning must be useful.

I agree.

Yet, does that mean that something like sudoku is not learning?  It depends.  You do sudoku for pleasure, or perhaps to exercise your brain, so that has some use, but it might be good to add the idea of learning being beneficial in some way to the idea of it being useful.

Thus, we have “learning is gaining knowledge of skill that is useful or beneficial.”

Now, things will get complicated, and interesting.

Is studying learning?

First, then, we need to define studying.  What is studying?

Artha, my awesome Linux dictionary and thesaurus says that studying is this:

“consider in detail and subject to an analysis in order to discover essential features or meaning”

Consulting my online dictionary, I get this:

“application of the mind to the acquisition of knowledge”

Well, it seems that learning is not the same as studying.  To put it in math terms:

studying=gaining knowledge

learning=studying that is useful


You may wonder where I am going with this, but most of you know already.  Much of what kids are taught in schools, anywhere in the world, is not learning because it is not useful.  Yes, the students are studying, but they are they really learning?


I remember studying calculus in school.  Unfortunately, I hated it.  I was bored by it.  However, I asked the teacher, a good fellow, with a teenager’s curiosity, “Why are we learning this?  I’ll never use this.”

He smiled and replied, “To teach you how to think.”

He admitted that it would probably not be useful.  However, it might teach me how to think.  Maybe.  Possibly.  I still have doubts though…..


That is one of the problems I see here in Japan, and many parts of the world.  Yes, students are studying.  They are gaining knowledge.  Yes, that is great.  However, they are gaining knowledge that is not useful to them, to their future, or to anything really.


Is this education?  Is this learning?

Or, is it only studying?


And, of course, shouldn’t learning be useful?


Education should include learning, not studying.

A good education that includes learning is vital to life.  It can make or break a nation.  A nation with people who have a good education (a learning) will prosper.  Those with a poor education will not.  That is simple and incontrovertible.


Unfortunately, most of the countries I have lived in do not have a great educational system that is  focused on learning.