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Thursday, March 10, 2011
Sir Howard Davies, who until recently was the director of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in the UK, has resigned from his post. His reasoning? That he had made judgement errors on two occasions when advising the LSE to accept donations from Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Muammar Gaddafi’s son.
Mr. Davies’ announcement comes just days after students at the LSE protested to the administration to investigate Saif’s previous records of postgraduate enrollment at the LSE from 2003. Saif is being accused of having plagiarized his doctrate, which he recieved in 2008. The accusations have also come with criticism towards LSE in accepting £1.5 million in 2009 from the so-called Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation.
When I was growing up, the word “education” had a positive ring to it. It meant that you (or those paying your fees: Parents, grant makers, universities, corporations, etc.) were investing in the capacity of your knowledge to eventually do some good in the world.
Today, I cannot say with confidence that this positivity still exists in the general scheme of how education is delivered globally. Instead, I think the focus of who matters most within the global formal education system has shifted from being the student, to the school.
It seems that the “school” as an institution today runs as a business, as it should. In very basic terms, there are inputs which cost money, and there are outputs which should yield a profit. But this is where things get tricky. How does a school account for its “profit”?
Remembering again my younger days, I would think that “profit” for a school meant that the level of “goodness” being produced by their alumni had a direct positive relationship with the school itself. That is, the school not only produced the talent that did good in the world, but benefited from this talent directly through interactions with the alumni and their activities.
But observing the situation in secondary schools and higher education institutions around the world, I fear that this definition of profit has changed. Today, it seems that profit has more of an implication on the school, before it has an implication on doing good in the world. That is, school brands are becoming more important than basic human virtues.
For us young folk, this could mean trouble. Some for us, but lots more for the next generations to come. It means that while “real” education may be consistent in terms of curriculi across any university from the East to the West, the costs, brands, and associated “careers” are likely to be better in those schools that have more resources. Which subsequently means that those schools with less resources will continue to be marginalized on the world map of education.
Duh, you say, that’s obvious. It’s about recieving a “quality” education. I agree, there are schools that deliver and support knowledge well, whereas there are other schools which do not. However, should that quality of education speak to one individual’s capabilities, opinions and actions? Should we label masses of students with the brand of the schools they graduate from?
Further, shouldn’t schools be properly valuing their inputs, relative to their broad objectives (and here, I am also talking about the philosophical objectives of education)? Should they not consider for what purposes resources are provided to them, and what implications this would (and should) have on their constituents?
Unless we young people can understand clearly why we go to school and what we’re supposed to come out with, I fear education will continue to become more commercial than beneficial to humanity.
- LSE director Sir Howard Davies resigns over Libya links
- How Libya’s Saif al-Islam Gaddafi seduced the West
- LSE investigates Gaddafi’s son plagiarism claims
- Ken Robinson: Changing education paradigms
- More on Education @ Vijana FM