Education is one of the most important institutions ever created by man. It determines the wealth and prosperity of any society. Even in the medieval time, there was apprenticeship and that was a form of education. But the modern style of education goes beyond followership to helping students become creators of knowledge. In other words, it transforms students from becoming ‘recipients’ of education to ‘users’ of education as they partake in the process.
Nothing changes a society or a nation more than education. I always say that education is simply the liberation of the mind. It opens the mind to new possibilities and frees it from dogmas and destructive norms. It will remain a popular institution because it is the only institution that holds the key to the future.
Notwithstanding, many students are concerned on the quality and affordability of their education in the contemporary time. According to many government statistics, many schools have or intend to increase tuitions to offset budget cuts by federal, state or local governments.
But it does not end in budget cuts. In most nations, students have to pay more as the schools are increasing tuition, even though they are reducing some services. Under this scenario, these students are concerned that they are not getting the best under historical benchmarks. In general, the students graduate with more debts and are forced to do so despite having lower quality as schools use resources designed for 100 students for 300 students.
From the debt-ridden states to private institutions globally, university education has become increasingly expensive. Unfortunately, that higher tuition does not positively correlate with higher earning power after graduation. So, most students spend more to get diplomas that reward lesser because of the ‘devaluation’ through globalization. This is one area demand and supply come into play. With more jobs outsourced, the students have to compete for fewer under this difficult job market. The higher supply than demand depresses wage which does not work for the students.
For schools in most developing economies, tuition is also rising and unemployment is also high since the rate of job creation lags the graduation rates. But for most of them, there is no problem of huge debt since education is mostly pay-as-you-go and there is minimal option of government or bank loan. (Sure, families do take different types of loans.) Yet, they are concerned over quality and affordability since the generation that studied about fifty years ago received better education at lower cost, if any, than what they get today, especially in primary and secondary education.
Even at tertiary level, when these nations had one or two universities, they funded them very well. Now, those schools have to compete for funds with more than hundred other schools. In Nigeria, for example, the number of government owned tertiary institutions has gone from say ten to more than two hundred within half a century. This pushes tuition since government is not providing much help to all the schools. The whole system forces the schools to admit more students because of budget issues thereby creating chaos where most students complain of large class sizes. Quality is low, yet it is not readily affordable.
From Nigeria through Argentina to US, most students have quality and affordability challenge of pursing their bachelors and post-graduate studies. It does not mean that knowledge is not expanding or increasing, the problem is that getting it is becoming more expensive. And for most institutions, there is a genuine decision to cut service because of cost. That poses a risk to quality.
When you cut school hours or eliminate a course, there is a possibility that a student could miss an important life-changing idea. When you cut research grants, there is a chance that professors could not push further to enrich the students. Those days in college, the most exciting lecturers were those doing great research works. They bring new insights and perspectives to classroom. If they stop doing those works, though teaching, you deprive students those insights. And that is a quality issue. It remains today that irrespective of mastery of theory, the best schools are the best ones in the labs.
Quality and affordability in education is a big issue in our globalized economy. For most European students, they attend college with the support of government. In Sweden, it is 100% free. Why their counterparts in US are trying to follow a career path that will enable them pay their loans, they are free from such problems. So the students can afford to go into entrepreneurship and spend extra years in learning without the concerns of debts while the heavy indebted counterparts cannot.
Anyone that says that the new dislocation of national debts is not a problem in the educational institutions may not be real. Students are concerned over quality and affordability and they seem to be losing both sides. Higher tuition, fewer courses and lower prospect of great job because of recession and it creates a depressing future.
But alas, in the midst of this concern, most of the students have come to rediscovery. And that realization pushes a need for them to become managers right at college and stewards of their finances in a competitive and disruptive marketplace like the 21st century. It turns out that one of the most innovative generation of students is the one we have now and those concerns may be making them better.
There is no alternative to good education. No matter the cost, there will be demand for same. And despite the near universal concerns on educational quality, younger people are certainly smarter. Your challenges are histories to them, and their insights are things you lost. They get the advantages of your past, but you struggle to understand their future. That rigs the world for them. You may think they have not mastered the excellence you picked in schools. But look closer, they are better. Your generation might have built planes and turbines, and their own generations are masters of clicks and likes. Yet, the fact is this: they can read about the turbines while you may struggle to understand the likes. Provided their minds are liberated, they will hold up for the next generation. The question that remains unresolved in the developing world is: how do you liberate more minds affordably? My Mercedes is bigger than yours, they wrote many years ago. Everyone always thinks he got a better education. But in reality, things are getting better despite the old metrics we use to measure progress. As I always say: the best company has not been founded. These young people will establish them. Not learning good enough could be the education!