Knowledge is power and for those reading this article, at least a basic level of that power of education has been accessible. However there are instances in the world where the distribution of education is skewed. The advantages and disadvantages of education although seemingly quite clear can be explored to quite a detailed level. It is usually the benefits of education that are extolled from time to time and there is much strength in that argument since the one thing that separates man from animals is the ability to advance knowledge and expertise from one generation to the next. On the other hand some may argue about the difference between ‘having an education’ and ‘possessing knowledge’.
Here we try and develop a debate about the advantages and disadvantages of education keeping in mind all points of view.
Advantages of Education
Human Capital – To build upon the previous point, when looked at from a macro perspective, an educated population provides a more valuable human capital base to the economy. A developed economy has maximum concentration of jobs in the tertiary sector which requires a highly skilled work force which has expertise in specific fields. For instance the most developed country in the world, the USA has the most skilled human resources with maximum efficiency. Also, developing countries which adopt tried and tested technologies from other nations require skilled engineers, technicians and managers who can put it to good use. This can only be achieved by providing quality education to the population at a primary, secondary and higher secondary level.
Broadens perspective – This is one of the key advantages of education. Even if we consider economic benefit of education but its most important contribution that it helps in changing minds of people. Education makes people understand other cultures, religions, places and culture. It helps gain understanding of what the world is all about. This very important if we see from perspective of developing nations which are plagued by old notions. In countries such as India girl and boy child are differentiated. Even worse women are considered cause of girl child while science tells that it is the other way round. Similar old style dogmas exists everywhere in the world and the only way to eradicate them is proper education.
Hones potential – An education provides individuals with the ability to develop their potential to a much greater extent. Exposure to different fields and interests allows a person to choose between a number of options and hone in on the one field that they have the ability to excel in. This also helps develop interest in a number of other non-academic fields such as art, culture, music, all of which are important to have a wholesome life. It improves interaction between people and results in more efficient exchanges.
Better job prospects – The conventional way of proceeding in life through the ages has been in four stages: childhood and education, putting knowledge to work by obtaining a career, raising a family, growing old and retiring from the daily conundrums of life. The logical step after the initial childhood years is to attend an educational institute and gather as much knowledge and information as possible for a better life in the future. This helps in developing a better base for securing a career later thus advancing the individual into the next phase of life. This helps in providing the basics such as food, water and shelter as well as a host of other needs. Thus, a better education will ensure higher returns and subsequently a better quality of life.
Dispels inequality – For individuals who do not have a wealthy or fortunate background, the provision of quality education puts them at the same footing as the vast majority of job seekers allowing them to rise from their present level. This phenomenon, also known as distributive justice, helps in reducing inequalities, both economic and social, in society.
The importance of education has been recognised by the international community as can be observed by the Right to Education Act which has been in existence since 1952 in the European Convention on Human Rights and obliges all signatories to guarantee the right to education. The United Nations’ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 guarantees this right on a global scale.
These facts display how seriously countries the world over have taken the aspect of education to be. Especially for developing countries, improving the quality of life of its population through education and all its subsequent effects is of utmost priority and has indeed been undertaken on a large scale by all such countries.
Disadvantages of Education
Though it is widely accepted that education is essential for the growth and development of an individual, the medium through which this is carried out can vary from one place to another. Some societies may be of the opinion that education can be transmitted just as well through unconventional media as it is through schools, colleges and other education institutes. In olden times knowledge was passed on over generations through learning on the job and elders’ stories; a formal route of attending school and college was not stressed upon. Here we explore some of the disadvantages of education.
Status symbol – These days a quality education has become a means for discrimination. As if the regular economic and social barriers weren’t enough, now the level of education and place from where it has been obtained, have become valid grounds for looking down upon people. As has been claimed by an Ivy League graduate himself, an elite education has its own inadequacies. The atmosphere in which these ‘elite’ students are instructed and taught brings upon most a sense of false achievement and superiority which widens the chasm between members of society. People who attend other less prestigious schools are regarded with disdain and the entire concept of self-worth is derived from the grade or CGPA system. People are judged by the numbers they carry around – GPAs, ranks, grades which may not be a wholesome representation of who they are or what their potential is. Although it is no crime to nurture excellence, refraining from making it a criterion to judge people on is important.
Restricts ideas – Some forms of education blindly impose ideas upon young minds instead of teaching them to think for themselves. The whole purpose of an education is to allow the learner to apply themselves to think bigger and better. However a faulty education system can do more harm than good in this respect. It can be argued that those without a formal education are more ready and equipped to handle a dog eat dog world. They may have gathered their knowledge from experience for which there is no substitute. Hence, unless the mode of education is wholesome and nurtures all aspects of an individual’s personality, it may not be as advantageous as expected.
After exploring both aspects of the argument, it is safe to say that the advantages and disadvantages of education point toward one direction. Though it has its drawbacks, if implemented correctly, an education system is very helpful in improving the quality of human life. It helps in transmitting knowledge, skills, customs and values, all of which are essential in the development of an individual. Thus, this discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of education have led us to the conclusion that the importance of education far outweighs its negatives.