Has education become a business?

May 7, 2010 at 1:09 am 13 comments

I was thinking (and it is always dangerous when I do that) about what teachers and schools and education were all like when I was much younger. I remember teachers who seemed to be on a mission, a sort of crusade to educate, who wanted kids to open their minds to the possibilities around them. They were our counsellors, our mentors, the ones who guided us and listened to our sometimes extremely ridiculous ideas.

They encouraged us and never told us there was anything we couldn’t do. They earned our respect because of their passion for teaching, for the values they inculcated and for the integrity with which they conducted themselves. Were they a different breed? Aren’t there teachers like that anymore? A few of my friends have dedicated their lives to teaching, to illuminating the lives of children who were or are under their care. But I don’t know if there are many others like them out there. Teaching appears to have turned into just another profession.

Education has become a business – not that ‘business’ is a bad word. It is just that schools and universities have become such commercial enterprises that everything is measured in terms of profits. There is a professor who told me the other day that he used to teach two courses at university and that was tough enough and left just enough time for him to dedicate to some of the research work that really interested him. He also had teaching assistants who helped him with assignments.

Now the same professor teaches 3 courses, has no time for research and the teaching assistants position no longer assists. When he asked the management of the university where he works how he was supposed to teach so many courses and check assignments and projects all on his own, yet maintain the quality of the teaching he imparts, he was told that he could do away with the assignments (as we all know it is the project work that actually brings concepts to life and allows kids to experiment with innovative ideas). His objections to this suggestion were totally ignored.

That is the story that one hears at several universities in the country – that although fee structures are high and universities are very profitable, they do not want to invest in adding on more professors and teaching assistants. Instead they want to retain more and more of the profit. Is it any wonder then that the quality of education is not what it used to be a few years ago? Is there a way out of this situation? Perhaps we need to raise the consciousness of the University management. Perhaps we need to work on improving the teacher-student ratio. Perhaps more project work is what is required. We certainly need to tackle this situation, and we need to do it now- the status quo is just not acceptable.

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13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Has education become a business? | Tea Break  |  May 7, 2010 at 4:59 am

    [...] This cup of tea was served by: In the Line of Wire [...]

    Reply
  • 2. Agnes  |  May 7, 2010 at 10:29 am

    It isnt only academics that have suffered…it is the fact that you have the day packed with income generating subjects so that there is no time for things like “Character Building” classes which made students question their actions, their goals, their contributions to society, etc.
    We already see the impact of the absence of this type of education in society today. The “Me, myself and I culture” where everything revolves around the individual…”As long as I am happy what do I care how others live”. This total disregard for others around us… littered streets, graffiti covered walls, disrespect for elders, blatant cheating and truancy, to name just a few. The harm that this cutting of corners has done and will continue to do…a nightmare developing…

    Reply
  • 4. Obaid Ahmed  |  May 7, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Interesting timing I actually came across two articles that really hit this on the head:

    http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2010/04/the-coming-meltdown-in-higher-education-as-seen-by-a-marketer.html

    and

    http://www.caterina.net/archive/001234.html

    I think the problem is when we are raised by the mantra to earn a lot of money. When money becomes our goal in life, we start losing other values. Education is one of them.

    Majority of the students going to universities, colleges etc are looking for the best ROI from their “degree” .. its not about passion anymore.

    Its the pressure from society, friends, family and parents that is pushing us into this. Our parents want the bragging rights that their son / daughter is a doctor or engineer or whatever and makes so-and-so (which has to be greater than someone else’s so-and-so)

    Reply
    • 5. By Baylis β2  |  August 13, 2012 at 1:45 am

      Why should we be surprised? The only message we hear from every quarter (politicians, social commentators, even the colleges themselves) is that education is the only path out of poverty into the middle class, or the only path out of the middle class into prosperity. Of course, I’m not sure another message would be heard by a large proportion of the population that is struggling to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table and shoes on their feet, and minutes available on their cell phones. We also have to remember that in the “good old days of education” the only students who went to college were students that the heirarchy of society deemed to be worthy of college and had proven themselves in high school.
      I feel confident is saying that none of us are old enough to remember the funding raising letters from the first presidents of the colonial colleges. The fund raising appeal to weathly colonial landowners was “give us money to insure that your sons have access to the colonial leadership positions to which they are entitled.” Social mobility was not part of their agenda..

      Reply
  • 6. Divaa Divine  |  May 8, 2010 at 10:37 am

    it sure pays them well – actually anyone in the business world knows no matter how bad it becomes education will never run out of fashion

    Reply
  • 7. Nash  |  May 8, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    I don’t believe that the goals of becoming a business and imparting great education are at conflict with each other. There are many ways of doing business. Some are highly myopic as shown in your examples but some are very far sighted like LUMS who make money, and lots of it.

    A far-sighted university/educational entitiy understands that their product is a finely qualified student. Who anyone would want to hire. If that is kept as a goal, people will pay for such an education and it will be a good education as well.

    Reply
  • 8. Yasmeen  |  May 8, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Very true…

    Reply
  • 9. Rakesh  |  May 9, 2010 at 3:15 am

    Agreed partly with Nash. But These two goals do have a tendency to be in conflict, especially if your consumer is not savvy enough and/or there is a dearth of competition on quality dimension.

    Pakistan’s education system needs an overhaul, on all levels, especially primary and university education to begin with.

    Reply
  • 10. Vickram Crishna  |  May 9, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    It is hard to agree with Nash, although I can empathise with his line of thought.

    1. Students are not ‘consumers’ of ‘education’. They participate with faculty and, hopefully, with the institute experience, in order to learn
    2. Education is not ‘imparted’, it is shared. Skills may be learned, education is both understanding and building from learning
    3. Societies need to deal with the cost of education. If universities/learning places are abandoned to strike deals with anyone and everyone who will pay, they will learn to value the deal more than their original purpose
    4. Whether or not businesses hire alumni of fine universities is irrelevant: their purpose in acquiring an education is no more and no less than to complete themselves as human beings, not to become homo sapien resources to be consumed by society or any of its organs

    Reply
  • 11. Hammad Siddiqui  |  May 13, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    I remember those time when I used to teach business communications at ICMA city campus. One day, Director Programs asked me to consider teaching Business English classes as well because they could not find a good teacher for that session. I refused saying “I would teach only what I can”. Today most teachers can teach whatever they have been asked to! Can’t understand how.

    Reply
  • 12. Raghu  |  July 10, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    Hmm. . !

    Reply
  • 13. kundan Kharayat  |  April 8, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Earlier days when people used to go forest for gaining education from guru that was actual education for students as well as society because that was not for business that was for personality development as well as to know about life..now conditions are different than those days.
    We have boon as well as curse of commercial education..

    Reply

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