Education Policy – a ‘Change Agent’ for Nations

Education is 'Green' LightSociety is run by people; at the highest level of the society, policies that define rules and regulations applicable in a country are made by people; basic necessities of a society such as health (hospitals, doctors, medicines), security, law and order (judges, lawyers, police officers), education (teachers, institutions, books), tools that they use (IT technology, communications technology) shelter, food, clothing you name it and you will find that they way all of these work in an integrated fashion is more or less dependent on ‘people’. The end result in all of these necessary facets of our society will be a vivid reflection of the way people who are involved in it ‘think and act’. To put it more crudely and in the ‘IT’ language, it is as logical as ‘Garbage in Garbage out’. Logically then, the solution for a civilized, advanced and self contained society must lie in apt training of these people in developing their thought and action process. Putting them through organized formal education from the ages of 6 onwards until they at least graduate at 22 must be the right way to go about it. But a deeper analytical look into the practical working of our societies, and it will be obvious that education alone will not ensure a spotless, healthy, safe and developed society.

When we come across some of the worst crimes and blunders committed by the most educated of people, we are left scratching our heads?! Why is that some of the countries such as North Korea and Burma with over 90% literacy rate, demonstrate a high degree of corruption*? Further study into the conundrum, and we see that it is not education, but the ‘quality of education’ that is lacking. Is it a mere coincidence that the top countries in the world in terms of the ‘quality of education’ systems such as Finland, Canada, Singapore, Japan and New Zeeland also feature in the list of the least corrupt countries to live in. There are richer countries in the world, countries with full literacy as well, yet only the ones with the ‘best education systems’ feature in the list of the least corrupt or to put it in a positive language, the ‘most ethical’ ones to live in! Education where children are grown up on a mere diet of competitiveness to outdo each others in exams, to get into the best universities, get honor degrees and then get tucked into highly lucrative salaries, results in lives that are empty and societies that are on the path to moral degradation. The cheap rhetoric of education as a ‘be all and end all’ answer to all the social evils and economic retardation does not strictly hold water; it is evident that the ‘type and quality of holistic education’ is the foundation on which success and prosperity breeds.

Deeper insight into the education system in any under developed country and it comes as no surprise why today it is in a state of mess, becoming bigger with every passing day. The entire education system is based on a nauseating clash of Public schools (govt owned schools in local or English medium,) private schools (foreign based system, primarily UK and US). Majority of the schools in these countries belong to the first type i.e are govt managed and financed public schools. They are largely in local language with a minority of English medium schools in the larger cities. There is no consistency in merit for teacher selection, often schools are nonexistent with salaries and funds still going to these ‘on paper’ GHOST schools. In rural areas, the school buildings are being used by the landlords for weddings, open courts and other personal functions. The curriculum and text fully encourages the students to be brought up on a diet of cramming, memory and regurgitation, with exams set from the questions already given in the text books. It doesn’t breed any ‘thinking’, let alone any ‘creative thinking’ in the least. These schools are breeding clerical type ‘pencil pushers’ and submissive followers rather than leaders who can shape and grow a society.

To fill the void created by the sub standard and miserably failed public schooling system, the businessman seeing an open opportunity unleash a culture of privately run English medium expensive schools that prepared the student primarily for the Ordinary and Advanced level exams conducted by London University. Far better than the public school system, they come with their own flaws; basic objective is business and then getting the students to obtain spectacular grades. That is where majority of them end their objectives. There was little or no emphasis on character building or instilling of ethical and moral values. As a result, poor families (majority of the country) cannot send their children there, majority of the (rich) high achievers and potentially brilliant minds leave for greener pastures overseas, eventually settling for second class citizens in those advanced countries, or worse, coming back and ruling the submissive ‘brain dead’ in various sectors of the society and causing havoc that we see in the country results.

These two educational systems are completely foreign to each other, unmercifully releasing misfits into the society year in year out! These recruits merrily join each other in civil bureaucracy, health, law and order, engineering, politics and all the other decision making entities and create havoc! They are responsible for formulating and implementing disturbing policies that continue to decide the nation’s future and very daily existence. The result is self evident in the country’s long standing ‘pear shaped’ vital statistics, be it economic, education, health, development, law and order, you name it. Poles apart, multiple systems running in parallel make ideal breeding grounds for children from the foreign systems such as the A and O levels and the US based systems to rule the society with children from local govt schools, serving them submissively. The memory and regurgitation diet that the local children have been brought up on, complete a perfect master slave relation to their ruling top. The ruling elite, who have been brought up on a foreign system taught locally, where the aim is to get grades and no emphasis is put in by the school on a holistic education and moral values, can play havoc with the position that they are put on. These privileged ‘lot’ follow their high school completion with a spell at a foreign university -by which point in time their morals and value system are pretty much written in stone- and come back to fit into the local public school enriched segments of the society. The end result is chaos and more chaos, social and moral denigration and more social and moral denigration.

Higher education colleges and universities are assessed and accredited, but hardly any come in the list of top 500 universities in the world. A majority of them are money making and degree awarding machines, with little or no emphasis on the much needed facets for change; character building, creative thinking and communication skills. In fact, the emphasis in these countries seem to be reverse of the world; they seem to lay more importance to the university education not realizing that by the time students reach university level (at 18 nor more), they have already developed and shaped their basic foundations for thinking process, character and communication skills. The same happens to the students who go abroad at 18 and return back with foreign degrees; despite being foreign educated, their basic foundation still remains weak and when they integrate into various social, political and economic sectors of the local society, they cannot make the difference or be the ‘change agents’. In fact, if their basic foundation has been laid on a diet of upper class principals, their blinkered policies in the society, where majority are down trodden poor people with no reprieve, end up causing more damage than good.

Going by all of the above facts, it is not difficult to realize that what is needed is a change in the education system that starts from the first grade (child of age 7 and above) up to grade 17 or 18 (at the masters and PhD level). The change has to be a system that presents an environment that breeds and instills,

1) high moral and ethical principles that play a driving role in their daily lives and all their working

2) creative and ‘out of the box’ thinking (that they apply in all aspects of life, whether academics or otherwise)

3) Ability and confidence to communicate their thinking in an articulate and amicable manner with complete command over the language.

What is needed is an education system that instills and ingrains in children the purpose of their lives on this earth, the governance of morality in their lives and daily decisions, the value of thinking and creativity to make the world a better and safer place to live for the rest of the society in which ever discipline they choose to excel in. If we are able to create such a system of schools and connecting colleges, universities across the country allowing every child to be passed through it as a compulsion, irrespective of financial background or intellectual ability, we will end up getting the first lot of graduates coming out of it and fed into the professional sectors of the society in 16 to 18 years. Within 20 to 25 years we will have a large majority of ‘people’ running these sectors, influencing the ‘old’ stakeholders in these sectors and even making high level decisions. After 30 years, you end up with a society that is largely ethical, with creative policy and decision making skills, and can decisively implement as well as communicate its policies to the masses and the outside world. To bring about a sustained change, ‘quality of education’ is the only solution as it will keep feeding great, capable and ethical minds, year in year out. It is rather long term, but considering that some of these countries have been going downhill for over 100s of years, with every passing year, 25 to 30 years, for a complete and sustained turnaround, is short, very short indeed. More importantly it is the only real solution to continuous change and sustained growth in all aspects.

With low affordability, high populations and the need to offer free education to all, public spending as a percentage of GDP will have to be very high (over 7%) and the prime onus will be on the government’s role and its incorporation of the above objectives in its education policy. The environment of the system would have to be such that it fosters not just education, but inherent training in creative thinking, problem solving and morality principals. Religious studies would have to be taught they way they are prescribed to be taught i.e so as to appeal to the spiritual as well as the intellectual mind. The reality of ‘ultimate accountablility’ for all our actions should be the upshot of such instruction, instilling the much needed sense of morality and accountability in all scholars. The medium of instruction will have to be the one that is most widely spoken acorss the world – which happens to be english today-, if the recipients are to market their country abroad and become great ambassadors and advocators of their motherland across the globe. The children will learn the local native language at home in any case. What they will not learn at home will be the language that is ‘as a matter of fact’ the most widely spoken language in the world.  Provision of ‘boarding and lodging’ facilities will play an important role in exposing the recipients to a maximium amount of  time spent in the ‘thinking’ environment during their formative years. Any other ways to bring about a change in the society, will only have short term benefits and also be unsustainable, as it will not have changed the largest and the strongest ingredient for turning ‘under developed’ countries into developed and great nations; people!

* according to Transparency International

** Pearson global report on education system ranking countries 2012- The study aimed to help policymakers and school leaders identify key factors that lead to successful educational outcomes. The research drew on literacy data as well as figures in government spending on education, school entrance age, teacher salaries and degree of school choice. Researchers also measured socioeconomic outcomes like national unemployment rates, GDP, life expectancy and prison population.

OliveLit has industry experts with international Ivy league academic as well as FTSE-100 corporate experience to plan and implement education policies for the developing world with an aim to deliver sustainable and positive transformation in all facets of the society.