Saturday, February 11, 2012

Quality and Affordability Concerns in Contemporary Education

Education is one of the most important institutions ever created by man. It determines the wealth and prosperity of any society. Even in the medieval time, there was apprenticeship and that was a form of education. But the modern style of education goes beyond followership to helping students become creators of knowledge. In other words, it transforms students from becoming 'recipients' of education to 'users' of education as they partake in the process.

Nothing changes a society or a nation than education. I always say that education is simply the liberation of the mind. It opens the mind to new possibilities and frees it from dogmas and destructive norms. It will remain a popular institution because it is the only institution that holds the key to the future.

Notwithstanding, many students are concerned on the quality and affordability of their education in the contemporary time. According to many government statistics, many schools have or intend to increase tuitions to offset budget cuts by federal, state or local governments. This is most prominent in the state of California where there are deep budget cuts across the university system.

But it does not end in budget cuts. In most US states and nations, students have to pay more as the schools are increasing tuition, even though they are reducing some services. Under this scenario, these students are concerned that they are not getting the best under historical benchmarks. In general, the students graduate with more debts and are forced to do so despite having fewer available courses to choose from as most schools are cutting staff.

From the debt-ridden states to private institutions in the United States, university education has become increasingly expensive. Unfortunately, that higher tuition does not positively correlate with higher earning power after graduation. So, most US students spend more to get diplomas that reward lesser because of the 'devaluation' through globalization. This is one area demand and supply comes into play. With more jobs outsourced, the students have to compete with fewer under this difficult job market. The higher supply than demand depresses wage which does not work for the students.

For schools in most developing economies, tuition is also rising and unemployment is also high since the rate of job creation lags the graduation rates. But for most of them, there is no problem of debt since education is mostly pay-as-you-go and there is minimal option of government or bank loan. Yet, they are concerned over quality and affordability since the generation that studied about fifty years ago received better education at lower cost, if any, than what they get today, especially in primary education.

Even at tertiary level, when these nations had one or two universities, they funded them very well. Now, those schools have to compete for funds with more than fifty other schools. In Nigeria, for example, the number of government owned tertiary institutions has gone from say ten to more than two hundred within half a century. This pushes tuition since government is not providing much help to all the schools. The whole system forces the schools to admit more students because of budget issues thereby creating chaos where most students complain of large class sizes. Quality is low, yet it is not affordable.

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