When they want to learn something, people always seek for an institution. But why? They'd say it's mostly out of security - they know they're learning the right things in a right way (is there a right way?) - and they have a guide.
Well, I'd say it's because it's easier. You don't have to research as much, you don't have to compare information as much (or organise it), you don't need to overthink about it, you don't need to always be alert and use your critical thinking all the time. Yes, it takes a lot of time. And it's worth it.
I, too, have many guides while I'm studying "by myself". And it's much easier to take away all my doubts with them. They are forums and websites, self-learners like me, people that work in the field I'm studying, friends, etc. All of them give me a different perspective. And they show me new tools, new resources, new ways.
So, if you spend more time learning when you're mostly by yourself, if you are more careful with the sources you use, if you do a lot more of research, if you take more than one method/way to learn what you want/need, if you get more than one perspective on the subject, if you are allowed to make mistakes and learn from them - why society prefers a certificated person?
As long as I remember, some people cheat at exams. Or they have to please a certain teacher. And all they do is listen to that teacher, read the books he reccomends (or any other medium) and that's pretty much it. But, of course, you can be a self-learner while you're graduating and search for other information.
But if you could learn for free, at your own pace, studying only (all!) the subjects you need/are curious about, why would you pay for it? Because, let's face it, which school offers you (at a small price) the range of knowledge you'd really like to achieve?
You have Khan Academy, where you can learn about math, science, history and more. You have YouTube to learn how to play an instrument, a new language, fitness and beauty, to dance salsa or to cook (or the two at the same time) and many other things. You have TED to know about others experiences, lifestyles, researches and ideas. You have Quora to discuss anything you want. You have the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) in any field. You have libraries, and e-books, and podcasts, and blogs (and RSS readers) and Wikipedia! You have streaming websites. You have Skype, and e-mail platforms, and Moodle, and Facebook, and many other social network websites to communicate with people. You have Google to search for whatever you want. You have Pocket to store and organise online information, clouds to store and create new ones, Evernote to take notes as you go - even offline. You have endless tools to explore. You have smartphones, tablets and laptops to take all of this with you all the time. You have wi-fi hotspots wherever you go, so you can access all that information wherever you are. And if you prefer the offline way, you always have the good old letters and free courses.
You can learn anything, anywhere, anytime. You have the mind, you have the resources. You only need the curiosity and the will to learn something more.
Leonardo da Vinci is one of the biggest examples I can give you as a self-taught person. Saramago is another. I can add Jorge Luis Borges (and many other writers). Alan Moore. Goethe. Tarantino. Kubrik. Woody Allen. Bowie, Hendrix. Russel Crowe. Frank Lloyd Wright. Gustave Eiffel. Jacques Fresco. Edison. The Wright Brothers. Michael Faraday. Benjamin Franklin. Leibniz. Einstein. Marx. Lincoln. Darwin.
Who think they learnt the wrong way? Who doesn't admire them? Wouldn't you like to be part of this list?
Now, I'd like to tell you about my own path: you know I'm learning Mandarin "alone". I achieved the second level in just one year (I could have done the third level as well if I wasn't so nervous at the HSK exam). If I had take a course, guess in what level I would be certified right now. Correct, just the first one! (Now I'm planning to do the 5th level, at April/May next year.)
I also already gave classes in two different places and in one of them I had to teach English and Portuguese to Chinese people! We only communicated in Mandarin, so it was a great challenge for me, just some months after taking my HSK exam.
I believed that I could do it and wasn't afraid that everything would go wrong. And I actually did it! Me, a shy person, talking with Chinese people, teaching them, with a certification telling everyone my Chinese was only basic. And they loved me. And I learnt so much! And I'm so proud of myself.
I also have learnt yoga with YouTube videos. I don't have the money to pay for classes and, yet, I managed to learn the movements and poses and the breathing, but also meditating (which is being hard to achieve). As I'm pregnant, now I'll learn even more things and prepare myself to childbirth. Isn't it fun?
Through Khan Academy, I also started to learn math all over again. I was never good at it, so I started with the early basic - yes, counting to ten and stuff. Not ashamed of it. At the same time, I'm learning program language! Next, maybe I'll study physics. I was always interested in the subject, but my grades never showed it.
With the Linguistic Team International, I learned how to create subtitles and compare them to previous versions, how to translate content, how to store and share information, how to manage a Facebook group, how to use language in a positive way, how to search for information and use it, what hydroponics is, sustainable living and so many other things. All of this by sharing knowledge with other people, and getting feedback and good reinforcements!
After taking some free courses on organising information, time management, motivation and commercial sales, I started to look for more information about it. Sometimes you only need a little push.
Are you inspired already?