The Importance of Educating About the Importance of Education
The focus of education is increasingly becoming broader. Not only must educators teach the content of their subjects whilst reflecting the rapid pace of technological advance by incorporating and teaching about the new media, but they must also be able to apply them in order to hold the attention of their students.
This is becoming ever more difficult, as countless new developments emerge on a flowing basis of perpetual change. On top of this teachers are facing the additional challenge of educating their students, their governments and societies at large on the increasing importance of education.
“Knowledge is power”, we all know this, but nowadays the acquisition of knowledge is no longer merely a means to further influence and reach goals, it is increasingly essential to exist - not necessarily in a physical sense, but in an economic and social sense. As global economies become more developed, and countries move from producing primary goods (natural resources) to secondary goods (manufactured goods) and ultimately to tertiary goods (services), their respective societies are facing the consequences of this emergence of knowledge based economies. And many of the effects that the developed economies are experiencing are due to the fact that knowledge, unlike natural resources is a fluid resource in the sense that it easily flows from one location to the next.
Historically a plethora of wars and political strife have been due to geographical disputes largely motivated by the rich resources present on that land. Indeed still today many political issues arise from disagreements over ownership of rare earths and oil. Ideologies and religious differences have formed another traditional battlefield because of the implicit power systems associated with them. Increasingly, however, large disputes are centred on information. These disputes are mainly between firms, either infringing on, or protecting their intangible assets commonly referred to as intellectual property, whether its patents or trademarks or anything in between. This conflict is played out not only within the corporate worlds, but also take on national dimensions with superpowers such as China and the United States increasingly at odds over electronic theft and copyright infringement.
In tomorrow’s society the lack of knowledge will be the equivalent to a lack of natural resources in yesterday’s, with machines and software polarizing a workforce and affluence. More than ever the way to wealth and better living will become reliant on the degree of education available and provided.
The distribution and access to higher levels of education however varies widely. In some of the world’s wealthiest countries namely the United States and the UK, higher education is becoming increasingly expensive as societies differ between a belief in education as a necessary social provision or as a facet within a free-market economy. The reality of debt is a deterrent to those without affluent parents. Just in the past few years the fees for students in the UK have tripled, which some would argue relieves the nation’s burden of those studying for ‘qualifications’ that will unlikely amount to a viable career. The idea behind this forces students to choose with their wallet rather than their talent. Whilst it may be true that higher fees will encourage educational paths with a higher return on investment, it is also likely that a proportion of those with potential, will shy away from further education altogether.
Speaking with a Swedish networks salesman at a barbecue over some beers last weekend I was confronted with a Nordic bewilderment of the situation in the UK. While he hailed praise on the open-minded and creative business environment in the UK, he found the hike in tuition fees bizarre and ultimately an act of self-harm. Coming from Sweden where higher education is free and strongly encouraged, he believed that “it is in the best interest of governments to support education” and went on to state “we in Sweden would be poor without our free education”.
Yes, the UK is known to have many of the world’s best universities, but as international students are encouraged because they can be charged even higher fees, the knowledge they attain is eventually dispersed beyond these borders. The reputation of these universities attracts talent from around the world boosting their global rankings. But increasingly they cease to benefit the local population and fail to address their social mission. Whilst the economy and culture of the UK will continue to draw talent from all over the world, this country will also become more dependent on the international talent pool unless this trend is reversed.
Educational polarization in society will not just affect those on the short end of the stick, but in fact the economy at large. Whilst this would theoretically in the short term lead to the less affluent becoming poorer and the better-off becoming even more so, in the long run the economy will suffer. Having a large proportion of the population being less educated will slow down economic growth as a whole, thus holding even the affluent sector of the population back. The reason for this is that even the simplest tasks become more complicated as technology progresses, and competition becomes increasingly more intense which can largely be attributed to globalisation.
Education has never been more vital for the well-being of a country, and its importance is on the rise still. For this reason educators across the world must make the importance of their role known, and encourage higher participation and better support for their institutions, whilst not compromising on quality. This increase in demand for quality teaching will hopefully lead to a better appreciation of teachers’ at large, better social cohesion and a more robust economy.
26 - 28 FEBRUARY 2019
GESS DUBAI . SHEIKH SAEED HALLS, DUBAI WORLD TRADE CENTER
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