What started as my innocent question as a regular comment on a post – whether international schools (read : schools with international standards and not international in the name) are affordable by upper middle class people? in India turned out to be sequence of more or less like an opinionated discussion based on certain facts that both of us know.
You can find where it all started here (My response was to last two paragraphs of the post).Lead to post of Pepper’s opinions based on certain facts here, that lead me to present my points of why I think that way and started explaining by giving some insights. The comment is still in moderation, but I think, you my dear readers might find it interesting to read, as I really spent quite some time in composing those thoughts with some research and conversation with a friend of mine.
All this will make sense, if you read the entirety of the thoughts posted in the links shared above, then only, does this response fit in the dialogue. Also, I am not a very strongly opinionated person, I change my opinions based on facts and what we currently have and can do versus what it is to be ideal, I prefer an open ended conversation on the same.
Here was my response:
Thanks Pepper – I appreciate the thoughtfulness you put in your response – your perspective is always very interesting!
Your points are very agreeable – there are many low-quality government schools. The government should spend a larger percentage of money than it does on education, and in a more effective manner. Equal opportunity is generally accepted as a worthwhile goal.
I think I made a lot of points and maybe spread myself too thin. I think my main points should have been
1) Education is important for many, but it’s not right for everyone
2) There’s lots of non-traditional educational opportunities outside of school
3) There are limited resources that shouldn’t necessarily be diverted to education
I’ll start with the third point. You are 100% correct that there are low quality teachers and many of them are underpaid, especially considering how important they are to society. However, where are we going to get these high quality teachers that you are looking for? I think that you, with your thirst for knowledge, might be a great and inspirational teacher! However, if we take you out of your leadership position at your company, then the company might be worse off, people may lose jobs, and children will have a hard time thinking about school when there basic financial necessities are not met. Similarly, should we take doctors out of hospitals or disease researchers out of labs to teach basic skills? Kids will find it hard to study when they are ill. You can call education a fundamental right – what about clean drinking water, green energy, food, shelter etc.? There are many things we can agree are good, but we cannot say one thing is a “fundamental right” and prioritize it for free – prioritizing one initiative comes at the cost of all these other great initiatives unfortunately :-/
For my second point, I am still firm in my point regarding learning different trades, skills, etc. For us, we may have benefited professionally and personally from a well-rounded education at top schools. However, there are many people who will not benefit from school as much as they will from learning a trade, because it will result in better financial results for that person. By teaching a child classical philosophy, we might be stealing a child’s opportunity to learn farming or metal-smithing, which could deprive them of earning potential in the future. I understand your point that education should not be judged solely on practical application for making money. However, financial freedom is necessary to entertain the possibility of lifelong learning. A beggar cannot afford an internet connection to read the news or read Wikipedia. A person struggling to put food on the table will not read textbooks at night for leisure.
Finally, this leads me to my first point. Education is not right for everyone.
To take it a step further, some education is poisonous. Let’s take a simple Social Studies / History example (and most people might agree that history is an important subject, since “if you don’t pay attention to history, you are doomed to repeat it”). Let’s take the specific example of WWI. What was the cause of WWI? Most educated people would answer immediately “The death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the series of alliances between the European powers that caused a domino effect”. This falls apart at the earliest question. Is anyone really THAT popular that their death would cause a world war? The notion is ridiculous. Someone who knows history will have all these particular facts that explain all the Western wars, be it this dictator here or that extremist ideology there. In this case, the uneducated person is at an advantage – they can see “hey – the Americans and Europeans are a warlike people that always seem to be fighting and killing”. They won’t say “There’s Stalin here, Pol Pot there, Saddam in that instance, etc.” Education in this case is the trees that block the view of the forest.
However, a more benign example is exactly as stated in my earlier point about useful skills – if kids are spending their time considering our great philosophical quandaries, they are losing time that could be spent on developing marketable skills. Even worse, if a subject they deem boring is forced on them, they might grow to hate school in general. Even though I think that Calculus is a key skill that should be taught to all children, I’m sure many kids would hate going to the class despite its importance in engineering and science.
In this whole process of writing this response, I found my self doing more work for a blog than was required, trying to explain what I think and how I perceive, although, this has been an interesting topic to chat about and getting different perspectives, I am also aware that we discussing this topic on the internet will not solve the real problem. This topic is debatable and can go back and forth as long as possible and we end up agreeing on some and agree to disagree on some other points.