Education for its own sake

Before Dan Pink’s discussion of the Conceptual Age, there was Thomas Friedman ‘s analysis of the impacts of globalisation on the economy – the flat world.  We discovered that technology was not only making it easier and faster to manufacture products but cheaper than ever before.  And so, countries like India and China with their huge labor market became enticing manufacturing bases for large multinationals.

According to SMH economics editor, Ross Gittins ‘the way to ensure workers of the future have clean, safe, well paid and intellectually satisfying jobs is to emphasise education.’

Let’s be clear – this is not education for the 20th century but the organic, right brain model espoused by Dan Pink and Sir Ken Robinson.  This is education for and in the pursuit of happiness and the greater good.

Gittins argues that for an already prosperous nation like ours, education should not be a means to an end but an end itself.  We need to see education, research and the pursuit of knowledge as an act of discovery about ourselves, our culture and the world around us not simply as a means of appeasing commercial needs and interests.

Even Professor Peter Singer lamented last year that our universities have been overwhelmed by vocational and professional training instead of giving people a solid intellectual foundation grounded in humanities, science and arts.  Perhaps this may explain why in a recent study conducted,  75% of Australians enrolling in vocational training courses never complete them and why completion rates among younger full-time students is so low.

The point Dan Pink makes is that we cannot simply skill students for those left-brain jobs that can be done cheaper or faster overseas. Let’s hope for all our sakes that those responsible for making educational policy are right-brainers because we need a sustainable narrative.

Why is it that economists like Gittins, philosophers like Singer and social commentators like Pink can agitate for a new narrative while the voice of educational leaders remains largely silent? Until the education profession develops a cohesive theory of practice to drive such a narrative, it will remain at the margins of the debate and focussed on building skills in favour of deep knowledge.


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