“The current education system is truly bankrupt”

Our education is based on the wrong ideas. As a result, it produces passive knowledge copycats instead of creative, curious people. In his new book Gevormd of vervormd?(educated or deformed), philosopher Jan Bransen argues for a different education format in which the student plays a greater role. “Something must be done. The current education system is truly bankrupt.”

“The book may deal with education, but is actually about people,” says Bransen, professor of Philosophy of Behavioural Science at Radboud University. ‘Homo educandus’ is what I call it: the human as a self-developing creature.” Unfortunately, the situation is not great for homo educandus. In Bransen’s opinion, education does not produce people who can develop themselves. “We have removed free will from education. It has become something that people simply must undergo. In doing so, we use education to create very passive people.”

Education or deformation?

Bransen proposes that the current system has a distorting effect instead of an educational one. “This is because it is based on the wrong assumptions. We seem to unconsciously divide life into two stages: one of learning and one of living. But you learn and live simultaneously throughout your life.”

There is another misunderstanding: education serving as a transfer of knowledge that must then be tested. Bransen: “In my opinion, knowledge is a capacity. Students should be able to develop on their own.” Bransen also feels that an unfortunate culture dominates education, where everything must be able to be measured, where schools are mainly concerned with required learning results (“what a student should know”), and where diplomas play a much more important role than actually learning something or mastering specific skills.

The lecturer teaches the student

Bransen also argues for an education format in which young people play a larger role – where they literally learn to play their own role – but as a human being instead of a student. This format should encourage them to develop their own voices, perspectives, and positions.

It would also call for a new breakdown of the different learning stages. In his eyes, primary education should be about developing self-confidence by creating a solid foundation where the student gains a solid command of mathematics and language. “And in secondary education, students should learn how to play their own role. I think that should be focused on two areas, with two days of extracurricular learning.” Higher education should ultimately be divided into two approaches as well: learning and collaborating.


According to Bransen, education should be reformed as soon as possible. “I’m all for experimentation. Many people say that you shouldn’t do that with your children. But we’re doing that right now with this system. And it’s not even an experiment; it’s abuse. I think that now is the time to experiment. The current system is truly bankrupt.”