Last week I happened to catch an interview with Nobel prize winning economist Professor Joseph Stiglitz. Professor Stiglitz was in Australia talking about his latest book on inequality. What resonated was his comment that a country’s best investment is in its people not its resources. This is why investment in education and teachers is absolutely critical.
Unfortunately many educators still believe that schooling is somehow an instrument of the government or the economy or both. In doing so we buy into an outdated and mechanistic view of the world that has little relevance to the world in which we live. It would be OK if it were just this but in reality it is no more than social determinism. A view of the world in which learning is pre-ordained and pre-destined. We need to restate the purpose of education which has at its heart, the individual child.
Education in its truest sense is an investment in the individual- it builds on the nature of the learner. It does not impose limits or attempts to squeeze learners into jobs that will no longer exist in a decade. Schools should be an investment in hope – equipping students to be life-long learners and hopeful about the future. They are our agents of change and we must nurture their interests and passions as Yong Zhao says.
If creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship are the hallmarks of this age, then today’s learners will be creating the new world not our governments. Education is not designed to improve our economy but to improve our society by enabling all individuals to lead fulfilling lives. We can only challenge inequality in society by ensuring it doesn’t exist in our schools.