[Question] What is the point of College? Specifically is it worth investing time to gain knowledge?

So a bit of back­ground about me be­fore I go into the ques­tion.So I am sopho­more study­ing Me­chan­i­cal Eng­ineer­ing in In­dia.

I have no­ticed that I have for­got­ten about 80-90% of the course-work that I did dur­ing the first year.Don’t get me wrong,I stud­ied the courses prop­erly and not for the test.Still,if you were to ask me how much of the course I re­mem­ber now, I would at the very best re­mem­ber the gen­eral idea of the stuff I read.

This is very startling from a long time per­spec­tive.Col­lege-work in In­dia is gen­er­ally more over­loaded than other coun­tries(from what I have ob­served),so what this means is peo­ple con­sume a lot of knowl­edge in a very short amount of time and for­get it be­fore they can make any use of it at all(leav­ing aside the ques­tion whether the knowl­edge is use­ful in the first place).This oc­curs de­spite the best in­ten­tions to learn and es­pe­cially so with com­pli­cated stuff.I am not just talk­ing about the facts here but whole con­cepts and ideas of the sub­ject tend to be for­got­ten sooner than we can find any use for them.I am pretty con­fi­dent this ap­plies in most col­leges(In­dia or not).

This throws up a host of ques­tions for me.The ma­jor premise/​rea­son for at­tend­ing col­lege is to gain knowl­edge that I can fur­ther ap­ply to job/​life.The other touted premise is “Learn­ing to Learn or Solve Prob­lems”.If that were the ob­jec­tive,I fell col­lege ap­para­tus is a very in­effec­tive way of achiev­ing it(will elab­o­rate on this if re­quired).As­sum­ing that the former premise is the ac­tual one,I do not think the col­lege sys­tem ac­counts for my for­get­ting curve.Even if you were to take proac­tive steps and learn the ma­te­rial prop­erly,you are still likely to for­get it be­fore you use it.It is im­prac­ti­cal to prac­tice spaced rep­e­ti­tion for mul­ti­ple semesters worth of course work.And if you were to do it,the ques­tion here(which I will go into de­tail fur­ther),is it worth to put this much effort into pre-learn­ing it,effort into re­mem­ber­ing it and then fi­nally us­ing some small por­tion of it later on in your lives?

All this is I feel part of a big­ger ques­tion:

What util­ity do I gain from pre-learn­ing any knowl­edge at all that I am not go­ing to use in my near fu­ture ?

This ques­tion is asked pre­sup­pos­ing that you are not learn­ing out of pure cu­ri­os­ity and rather with the hope of us­ing it later on.Ba­si­cally you ex­pect that this knowl­edge will help you mean­ingfully con­strain your an­ti­ci­pa­tion and help you make your de­ci­sions.

This ques­tion I feel has mul­ti­ple sub-ques­tions to it,which I only par­tially have found an an­swer(hence the post/​ques­tion).

1.How ex­actly do I quan­tify my for­get­ting curve?

2.How much of what I am pre-learn­ing is go­ing to be use­ful?(This differs on a in­di­vi­d­ual ba­sis)

3.As­sum­ing that what I have learnt is use­ful,how much ex­tra effort do I have to put in to make sure that my knowl­edge stays in­tact at the time of use?This may the effort through spaced rep­e­ti­tion or any other re­ten­tion method that you use.I feel a use­ful pa­ram­e­ter to define ,in ad­di­tion to the for­get­ting curve,is “time/​effort re­quired to reach 50%,80% of knowl­edge at start” at any point in time.I would highly ap­pre­ci­ate if you give me any pa­per on this(hope­fully where the sub­ject learns un­der­grad math-level con­cepts).

4.What should be the ex­po­nen­tial(nega­tive) scal­ing fac­tor of the util­ity when you fi­nally do end up us­ing it?(This also might differ on an in­di­vi­d­ual ba­sis).

5.Fi­nally an­swer­ing the pre­vi­ous 4,is it worth to in­vest your time on some­thing to pre-learn?We can de­bate on the de­gree of pre-learn­ing here.I feel the amount that we gen­er­ally do in col­lege is waaaay off.


PS:This is the first time I am post­ing on LessWrong. So I am not ex­actly sure whether this qual­ifies as a ques­tion or as a post.So for­give me if the post it­self is a bit rough.

No comments.