Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Education Problem: An Alternative View

The education problem is obvious. There are more than 550 million school-age children who don't have access to school. There are more than 400 million adults, most of them in South Asia, who can't read or write. In some countries, majority of children coming out of primary school, over 90% in some cases, can't read or write. Bad Higher Education is wasting whole generations in countries like India, affecting close to 100 million people. Graduates can't get jobs in Europe because their education isn't good enough, and they are not paying back their loans. Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa note that they are not doing much in college either. It looks pretty bad all round.

This looks so bad is because we talk about it. In fact, we are talking about it more and more, even more than things like safe drinking water, which affects more people, because of two reasons. 

First, the wider economy is feeling the impact of the education problem. The fact that someone does not go to school affects the economic structure we are building because they don't participate in it; they don't buy the things, they don't read our messages, they don't even feel deprived the way we think they should be feeling. In short, they remain outside the structure of our control. We fear this and we see a brave new world at the same time. They are not at the bottom of our pyramid: They are not even building the pyramid, and we can build a taller pyramid once we get them to participate in it. The consumer economy needs growth and they are our canon fodder. 

Second, there is money to be made in this. We have lately discovered how. These human beings may not have any money, but being human, they have some time. And, we have enough sophistication in terms of debt instruments which can monetise their time. In short, instead of living in an existence outside the consumer pyramid, we can use education to create the needs and wants which will make them give up the time they have. They may give up the idle, poor, hopeless life they are living in their villages, and will come to a city slum to live a stressed, poor, hopeless life, seduced by the consumer symbols that we have created. The little piece of land that his father gave it to him to live will be traded in, which we will convert later in an economic asset, and his time, for the years he would manage to live, will go into servicing the debt that he would incur in educating himself into wanting to buy the good life we will tell him about. 

That some resist such good intentions and invitation to productivity, and our profit, is indeed surprising, and that is indeed the core of the education problem we are facing. Every person in a nation must do their bit for national well-being, which is GDP growth as we define it, and that these poor, without an idea of a nation because they have not been educated, would rather cling to their barren plots of land, unproductive time, and diseased life, is a wholly intolerable idea. The national missions to educate, along with national missions to evict, and national missions to exploit (in a productive way), must be formulated in sync to get these poor people to do their bit to contribute to enhance the wealth, of a few moist eyed, smoothly articulated Davos-type industrialists. They are indeed all in the mission: Because good education that converts the poor moron into a consumer and a debtor is absolutely key for their continued business expansion. We are all in it, facing up the education problem. Wish us luck to change the world!   


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