The word ‘educated’ is used to describe different people depending on the circumstance or the display of knowledge. In the real essence of it what does it mean to be educated or what does education really mean? I am not going to try to define these terms but I will like to explain what I think education should do for a society.
Some days to the last World Literacy Day I stumbled on one of my old write-ups (it was never published) but it re-awakened my mind to the huge challenges that confront our educational system today. It is not about the number of children out of school , it is not about building more structures , it is a about what I call the fundamental essence of education: which is to positively transform a society.
The theme of the last World Literacy Day (September 8) is ‘Literacy and Sustainable Development’. It is important to note that education is directly linked to development across all sectors and if we must ensure continuous growth in all development efforts we must approach education from a different perspective. Government, Corporate sector, individuals, civil society and multilateral organization must understand that they all have a great role to play in ensuring that education translates into development.
There is a big question posed to the generation of today and the one that existed before now; How can we ensure that our children are not tackling the same problems of our time with the same strategy as ours? Issues like Gender inequality, Climate Change, Malaria, Unemployment, HIV/AIDS, Conflict, Terrorism and most recent addition Ebola require institutions that will prepare citizens to tackle it strategically. It is high time we realized that tackling the effects of a problem will not solve the problem, we need to address the cause of the problem. Quality education should equip students with the necessary skills to solve problems.
Many times I have asked graduates from different institutions what they plan to do with their life after school. In most cases many of them do not have an idea of what they want to do. They approach life with a mindset of ‘what will be will be’. The issue is that we cannot confront the challenges that have plagued us for so long with that mindset. Maybe the bigger challenge is on how we can restructure our education system to prepare students better to face real world challenges. Sometimes ago I listened to someone compare life in school to life after school, this is the simple explanation from the person I can’t remember ‘In school, your lecturers give you the lesson before the exam, In reality your employer or Mr experience give you the exam before the lesson’. It is exactly opposite.
For education to be meaningful it must provide innovative, relevant, safe and reasonable solutions to the challenges that confront us across different sectors. How can we ensure this is done? Lecturers and students need to become the first partners that will drive this change. Government, Civil Society, Private sector and Philanthropists should work together to support the work of the drivers of change. In all, everyone must be sincere to say what they know and what they can do, also we must all be open to always allow for growth, style and innovation. When we achieve this level of sincerity and openness we will strengthen our education system to produce the best problem solvers/ change makers/ inventors who will also ensure that everyone out of school, comes back to school with required facilities and human resource to help them live to their full potential. In short this is what real education is all about.