To some education will save the world. For most, education is the ticket out of a lower economic class status and into a higher one. For most, education requires significant costs that individuals and families end up paying for over many years.

Education costs are rising and a lot of what we see in the press is about students (and other add-ons) protesting the costs, especially here in the UK where not too long ago university education was provided free of charge. I have to admit I am surprised by the protests and more surprised by the coverage in the press of them. It all seems rather one-sided to me – anger at the rise of fees for education, but nothing about how students could make better use of the funds they already have. There was a great posting on Facebook written by a student – see below.

I love this statement as I think it brings back into the conversation the issue of responsibility. I wish this discussion would be more prevalent in the media. But then again, education and finances doesn’t seem to be about responsibility. When I applied for financial aid to help pay for my undergraduate degree, I was asked all about my parents financial situation even though they were not paying for it. I was also asked how much money I had, which then counted AGAINST me, not for me. This meant that the person who had not saved any money before going to university received MORE financial aid than I who had saved money. Ridiculous. But finances are one thing and it is not likely to change anytime soon.

Funnily enough, the change in education is coming, but not because of the financing of it, nor because of student protests, but because of people like Sal Khan and MIT. MIT for the last number of years has put all of its courses online, accessible to the public, for free. Yes, for free. This is a huge challenge to others as MIT is saying that the fees you pay to go there are worth it because their professors and the school experience adds enough value to the course material that they can offer the course material for free to everyone. Fabulous. Check it out at MIT opencourseware. And there is Sal Khan and the Khan Academy which is completely changing how education is being taught and made available. It’s online, it’s creative, and it’s full of depth. Recently, it raised $5 million to continue its disruptive approach to education and I look forward to where it might take us.

Our approach to education must change. No longer should undergraduates pay fees that cover the costs of professors research work. No longer should lectures be the main form of education. Perhaps in the next 10 years we’ll see some of the work Howard Gardner did on multiple intelligences come to bear on education and see better approaches surface. Education needs to be about exploring, about getting children and adults to think for themselves, rather than simply be told what to think.

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