Empowering the Future!

Empowering the future

Access to Education

‘Education is central to the moral fulfillment of individuals and the well-being of the society in which they live.”[1]

As I began to dive into the mountains of research available on the internet I quickly realized that no one disputes that it is “better to teach a person to fish than to just give him food.” : however, is a high school education sufficient to give a person the tools to fish in today’s society? I would argue that it is not.

I question the logic of rationing advanced learning (University, college, trades, etc.) through “pay as you go” education. In doing so I seek to: raise awareness, start a focused discussion on the benefits and costs of post-secondary education delivery, and lastly, provide the reasoning why Article 26 of the UN (United Nations) UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights) sentence (1) needs to be updated.

The majority of people understand that it is in everyone’s best interest: to raise the average level of society’s education, work together, and learn from each other.

* Rich people, will benefit as the base of the economic pyramid grows

* Middle class people will also benefit from the economic expansion

* Poor people will be given greater opportunity to break the cycle of poverty

* Everyone benefits from greater stability and decreasing inequality

Only individuals and/or institutions that benefit from instability and conflict will lose influence

First off let’s define and familiarize ourselves with the benefits of education, then let us compare the different approaches we can use to provide post-secondary education and some possible effects these approaches can generate.

Today, according to the research done by Global Partnership for Education, the benefits include:

–Reduced Poverty

–Increased Income

–Healthier People

–Increased Economic Growth

–Saves Children’s Lives

–Fosters Peace

–Reduces Fertility Rates

–Increases Crop Yields

–Reduces Child Marriage

–Reduces Maternal Deaths

–Promotes Gender Equality

–Combats HIV/AIDS

The Comparison

Given that the education received in all institutions is roughly the same, with the exception of specialty schools, why do some societies limit the benefits bestowed by education? It seems to me that cultures which value individualism over collectivism tend to adopt the ‘education for pay’ structure, which makes sense from many perspectives.

Some of the benefits of “pay as you go education”

* Self preservation — the divisive nature all but ensures the success of their progeny

* Control of not only who attends but the content as well — Money can buy almost anything, including laws, politicians, apples, and the type education passed on in controlled environments

* Proximity — Success in business is largely a function of who you know, if most of your friends have numerous influential contacts you have a higher probability of succeeding materially.

* Motivation to learn and achieve

“Free” (the entire society bears the cost) Education

* Higher average education within society and all the associated benefits noted above

* Social benefits as students from all life experiences mix — because our life experience is limited to our own senses we benefit from new information and perspective — the greater the variety, the larger the benefit

* Motivation to learn and achieve derived from the “self”

So, “free” education appears to yield greater benefits to ALL of society.

What about the costs of education itself and differences in delivery costs (if any)?

* Anxiety — which comes with additional financial burden in addition to lack of sleep, heavy workload, and academic performance pressure

* Addiction — likely the most common form of dealing with stress and anxiety, exacerbated by academic performance pressure, added financial burden, lack of sleep, and heavy workload

* Crime — the last resort

* *Isolation* — by ensuring that the majority of the students come from a wealthy background, you increase the probability of a students’ success by pre-determining their social group.

From an individual or immediate family viewpoint this could be regarded as a positive affect

From an individual or societal standpoint this is treacherous, you are potentially robbing them of valuable perspective!

All the costs listed above will exist regardless of the delivery method: however, since funding is the primary source of these, a high percentage can be eliminated by having society bear the cost not the individual.

Lastly, the UN’s purpose and principles are replete with declarations on how we should conduct ourselves with respect to our worldly brothers and sisters, particularly when it comes to peace, war, security, human rights, and poverty; given that education has major influence on our understanding of these issues, the current wording of the UDHR Article 26 sentence (1)[2] is at odds with all other declarations.

Here is some research that nicely underscores the importance of this education discussion; in 2005 the New York Times printed research by Anna Bernasek, she found;

“Two Harvard economists, Lawrence F. Katz and Claudia Goldin, studied the effect of increases in educational attainment in the United States labor force from 1915 to 1999. They estimated that those gains directly resulted in at least 23 percent of the overall growth in productivity, or around 10 percent of growth in gross domestic product. The most important factor was the move to universal high school education from 1910 to 1940. It expanded the education of the work force far more rapidly than at any other time in the nation’s history, creating economic benefits that extended well into the remainder of the century, according to Professors Katz and Goldin. That moved the United States ahead of other countries in education and laid the foundation for the expansion of higher education.

Today, more Americans attend college than ever before, but the rest of the world is catching up. The once-large educational gap between the United States and other countries is closing”[3]

This is not a new issue. Historians have noted that each and every one of us has the urge to pass on what we have learned and promote the longevity of our species.

“The use of teaching to transmit the lore of the family and the race. These are the elements of civilization and they have been tenaciously maintained through the perilous passage from one civilization to the next. They are the connective tissue of human history.”[4]

As humanity, knowingly or not, races towards an economy of abundance, I suggest that we: embrace the truth of the Durant’s assertion, reallocate resources away from pointless and counterproductive institutions such as militaries, and purposefully provide society with a goal such as, accessing the unlimited resources of the Universe (including a loose roadmap of how to get there).

Why are Star Trek and Star Wars two of the most popular franchises in the history of our society? I suggest that there are many people out there who love to dream of what lies beyond. Like our ancestors before us, we are seeking resources in undiscovered locales; it remains to be seen how further expansion is accomplished using the current individual/group perspective or a societal perspective.

Awareness is more than half the battle. I truly hope that I have been articulate enough to communicate the need for society to fund and promote universal free education.

the title picture by the Top Master’s in Education

[1] Education Indicators in Focus by the Organization of Cooperation and Development (OECD) January 2013

[2] http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/11/business/yourmoney/whats-the-return-on-education.html

[4] The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant.


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