Working in education for over 20 years has made me think a lot about the state of the world and the responsibility of those of us in education to ensure that positive change happens rapidly. Our young people have the right to expect an education that will give them the tools needed for a brighter, fairer future. We all live in a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous –the VUCA world.
The education system has lost its way.
With a legal training my life path to becoming an educator was unexpected. Leaving Ireland to come to Switzerland led to a new life teaching English and law in schools and universities. This took me in the direction of an American university overseas campus and from there to becoming a guidance counsellor for a business school. I now work with younger students helping them understand our world and showing them what they can do, through their lives and studies to make the world a better place.
This life journey allowed me to understand the importance of education and the positive impact education can have, if used correctly. It has also showed me many pitfalls and the urgent need for a new approach in our system. In an earlier blog I talked about Edgar Morin, the great French sociologist, the head of the UNESCO chair of Complexity, who told us in Geneva last year that humankind has lost its way- the education system has lost its way, and that we need to teach people to love each other.
Questioning the business of rankings.
In many countries education has become a purely business space. Therefore, like so many unenlightened businesses, money would seem to be the main criteria for “success“. While I understand business, I also understand the need for it to be sustainable- in the educational realm as in all other business spheres.
How have we reached a stage where the quality of an education is based on the ranking systems we have today? Where the quality of business schools may depend on the amount of money earned by graduates at the end of their studies?
Are we asking enough questions about how universities are ranked? Is it on the quality of the teaching staff which surely should be of paramount importance and not just the number of publications? Are we measuring the content of the subject matter and comparing it to the needs the world, our VUCA world?Are our educational institutions looking at the state of this world and insisting on education that is ethical? Going a step further, are courses in ethical behavior prevalent in all disciplines in all universities? I think not. Are we teaching respect, diversity, integration, equality and the importance of the sustainability of the world we live in? To my mind, if we are not doing this we are not heading in the direction needed to save our Planet and its people.
Ranking based on values, ethical behavior and the needs of our planet.
Instead, we should craft a ranking system based on the essential criteria mentioned in this article. When I look at the state of the world today I ask where our intellectual leaders are hiding? Which educational institutions are producing the leaders and thinkers we need to ensure the world becomes a peaceful, integrated place where people can live? I have worked with the parents of students for many years and I know they are as perplexed as I am with regards to the world we live in. Parents want the best for their children – this is completely normal – but it is our duty as educators to ensure that what is best for our students is also best for our world.
About the Author: Mary Mayenfisch-Tobin is an Advisor on Business and Human Rights & Education.
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