Education funding is a four-letter-word for politicians in much of the developed word, but why?? Why are we so opposed to funnelling money into education for children and adults alike, when the return on investment is so high? Perhaps it's hard to see the benefit of education when you're in government, and calling the shots; you made it alright, so why mess with things? Maybe it's about rate of political return per dollar spent? Education funding doesn't please as many people as funding a new bridge, or bringing in a tax cut. Whatever the reason, the result is us effectively chopping our local cities and communities off at the knees. We're holding ourselves back from our potential, and perhaps even sliding back the other way.
Don't believe me, stick around.
Current State of Affairs
This is where we're at in many 'developed' nations. Public education for children aged around 4-18 (grades K-12), depending on what month they're born in. For younger and older kids, nothing is provided by the government. Class sizes vary a little bit but typically have 20-30+ students per teacher. There's sporadic one-on-one time between teacher and student, and if a few students require more attention than others (behaviour, learning style, learning pace, etc.), then that means less time for the others. Private schools exist which improve upon student-teacher ratios, but you only get to go to those if your parents are rich, or work themselves to the bone to pay for it.
For younger kids there's some pre-school options that vary greatly, and for older ones there's college and university; both of these are NOT free, and we all know how expensive the latter of those can be. Basically, like with private grade schools, if you want to develop yourself to your fullest potential, your ability to do so has very little to do with how smart you are.
If you're an adult looking to retrain to be more employable, or looking to further develop yourself so that you'll be more effective in your current job (or life in general), you'd better be prepared to fork out big time while also balancing work, family, and life in general; gone are the days where all you had to worry about was school.
What's the Big Deal?
Nothing of what you've read so far should come as news, so why should you care? Why should we all of a sudden dump a whole pile more good money into educating our children and peers, when things seem to be rolling along just fine the way they are? Well here are my questions to you:
- How many times in your life have you gone, really?? Did anybody think about this?
- Are you an employer who is lamenting the lack of skilled people available for hire?
- Have you ever thought of making a career change or upgrade but then thought, there's no way I have the time or money to do that?
- Did you ever look back on a situation and think about how much better it would have gone if you'd just have known some little thing ahead of time? Did you ever feel unprepared?
If you answered yes or know someone that would have for any of the above, then you should question the way things are. Why is it so hard to learn things that aren't new to this earth?! Teach me so that I don't have to struggle the way someone did before me!
Here's a scenario. There's a kid that is struggling in class to learn something. They are intelligent and well-behaved, but this particular topic is proving difficult. Their teacher recognizes this but has limited time to assist, so after a brief one-on-one the student is left to fend for themselves. Maybe they'll get it, maybe they won't. Maybe one of their peers will be able to help them, or maybe they'll struggle, give up, and forever become disenchanted with an education designed to leave them behind. If instead that student had the support they needed to get over the hump of this issue, they will feel proud and encouraged; they will have a positive experience instead of a chain of negative ones. Anxiety is reduced, and performance is up.
Still Not Sure...
Right I get it. You made it through so why can't others? Not only did you make it through but the struggles made you stronger, but did they really? Did they make you better at tackling tough issues head on and slogging through until you persevere, or instead did you learn to cut your losses on uphill battles, and settle for the middle ground? Did you learn to ask for help when you needed it knowing that it was there, or did you learn instead to go it alone or not at all?
Just because you survived something and came out alright, does not make that something ok.
Imagine for a moment yourself with all shackles removed, and all the support you could ever need. It might seem impossible for even winning the lottery may not give the means for such a thing. Imagine that you can learn a skill a topic that you choose, and that you are encouraged and supported by educators and peers alike to learn and discover in a manner best suited to your learning style. Imagine that you are able to do this learning during regular work/school hours without having to worry about bills, and that you will not be saddled with a mountain of debt at the end of the road. Imagine for a moment how much better at something you'd be, what that might do for you, where it might have led you differently had it happened years before, and how much less anxious and stressful the process would be if you had all the financial and educational support you could ever need.
Imagine that your children are supported in the same way to absorb the most in the time of their life where it's easiest for them. No longer shackled down or dragged forward by the pace of the class, and free to thrive at the pace best suited for them.
There is no one that a change like this would not benefit.
How About the Teachers?
How would something like funding a three or more fold increase in the number of teachers, affect those individuals? I'm not going to try to predict all ends on this one, but I can surmise that fewer students would allow a teacher to focus better. Better focus means a higher quality of work, and more pride in the students on the side of the educator. The teachers themselves will in turn be better supported through a larger number of peers. Innovation should be encouraged in order to be more adaptive to student needs, and in order to make the work more rewarding to the teacher.
Such a significant change as I am proposing would require just as significant a review on the status quo tools and systems that are used today. No doubt many are excellent and few adjustments are needed, but certainly a big change like this will warrant many other changes.
Return on Investment
A massive increase in the number of teachers available, and perhaps even the elimination of individual student fees is not without great cost. The question then becomes, is it worth it? Certainly it is from the human perspective, but what about dollars and cents?
The most obvious point on this is the value of technology companies these days. Tech companies hold the top positions in all world markets, and that is not changing anytime soon. Well-educated and innovative people are the backbone of these industries. Train them at home and you become the powerhouse in less than a generation. Certainly some will move away but many won't, and all those at home will benefit.
A less obvious point on this is the cost if we don't. How much money where you are is spent fixing this, or cleaning that which someone's mistake made? Everyone makes mistakes but sometimes it's a lack of preparedness which is the problem. How many people die due to ineffective evacuation plans or early warning systems? How many houses are destroyed due to storms and flooding due to poor planning and infrastructure development? How much money and effort could be saved if everyone was just a little bit better at planning and working together? Have a think and I'm sure you'll agree.
It May Be Unavoidable Anyway
Perhaps a change like this is already unavoidable for our society. Technology thrives, and fewer and fewer occupations can get by without it. Automation replaces more and more human jobs everyday, and new approaches to old problems render old skills obsolete. We can avoid the future no longer, as it's already here. We must embrace it and prepare for it, lest we will be left behind.
Let's support each other and develop all our skills in the best way possible. Humans are by our nature adaptive and innovative. Let's put that nature to good use, and help everyone reach closer to their potential.