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Sanjay Sharma

Ex Director, Maastricht University India Institute, Maastricht University

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If education is the backbone of the society, why is it so unaffordable for so many around the world?

Especially in today's hyper connected world it should be possible to learn from one another in a much more meaningful and useful manner rather than just spending time in schools for a certificate that may or may not enable one to lead a constructive life in unforseeable future.

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    May 2 2011: You may be interested in this TED conversation:
    http://www.ted.com/conversations/1650/in_2011_is_it_possible_to_mak.html

    I definitely agree with the thrust of this question. Universities can and should make the knowledge necessary for certification more widely available online for everyone. Moreover, licensing/certification exams (like the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, the Bar Exam, the USMLE exams, etc. in the US) should also be available to be taken by anyone, at minimal cost.

    The remainder, what cannot be learned through online texts/videos/interactive tutorials/self-study, can be learned through apprenticeships, internships, residencies, etc.

    At present time/money cost for certification/licensing are exorbitant, unjustified barriers to entry in the digital age. No one should have to unnecessarily pay tens of thousands of dollars and years of their life in order to do what they are capable of doing.

    On top of which, we are primates, and we LEARN by DOING and PRACTICING.

    The current educational system in the US is arguably unconstitutional, because there is a less restrictive alternative to forcing kids to sit in school for 8 hours a day (a huge deprivation of liberty), which can equally serve the government's legitimate interest (educating people.)

    And from an economic standpoint, requiring people to spend ridiculous amounts of time/money on expensive licensing/certification whenever they want to change careers is absurdly inefficient (economically) and abhorrent (morally, and from a waste-of-human-potential standpoint).
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      May 4 2011: Yes, primates! " And a toddler does everything with passion, if he/she doesnt see the point it is 'No, No, No' and screams and cries'. Than we start to drill this protest out of them...

      Bill, you say it right and I am obsessed I guess with "Learn by Doing and Practicing, to build further;

      1. We imitate the 'master' once and than practice, this can be from somebody in front of you, through webcam or video. Even a cartoon. We do this so we not every baby has to invent the wheel all by himself.

      2. We explore what is in reach. From baby to adult our radius of exploration just grows.

      I am very keen on finding learning environments which implement these two as basics... I guess I really have to go to communities not influenced by industrial education to fabricate machine operators. Anybody knows? People who are figuring this out?
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    Jun 22 2011: Yes, you are right. Its unaffordable. The reasons may vary to country to country. If we take for India, a lot of social factors are hindering the advancement of education through the masses. Though the education is cheap in india, poverty is the main reason for unaffordability. Awareness, policies, political agenda and some social stigmas are also reasons. Do you know in India Naxalism doesnt allow education into some villages. If we drill down all these, we can struck at political will. So it doesnt go beyond the clutches of votebank. We need to doo something.
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    May 1 2011: Until we know what we would like to be, we need both. We need to directly learn/imitate from a master (parent, teacher, medicineman, peer) and we need to explore our world, real and or digital.

    Face2face contact is more than just passing on words. And if you have fiberoptics, fine, hyperconnect with the whole world. If you don't, hyperconnect with as far as you can see. Just make sure you hyperconnect.

    Some jobs need certification as else wise I would not hire you. Some jobs you need experience to gain trust. Some jobs require original thought, like here on TED, no matter what certificate you have or experience, your thoughts matter to me (or not).

    I guess the 'science hostel' by Garrett Lisi answers your question. Sometimes we need a building to meet, sometimes just online, though spending 1000 dollar a month to be able to sleep 24/7 in a city near university needs some rethinking.
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    May 1 2011: Sorry for my inability to get a connection between your original question and explanation.

    In your question it seems to me you are asking why education is unafordable to so many....
    Though the term EDUCATION I have some reservation with as you rightly said in your explanation about being certfied by attending certain time in school. I would prefer unaffordability of CERTIFICATION instead in that case.

    The situation is varied from country to country. Say in many countries of the world that CERTIFICATION is highly subsidised by government even than reuslt is varied e.g. in Sri Lanka where I am right now it's subsidised by government to almost same extent like Bangladesh. But result in literacy rate are different , while Sri Lanka has got 95% rate of school attendance Bangladesh is far below. So the other factor comes in which like poverty level. In BD around 50% people lives below poverty line which is only around 7% in Sri Lanka.

    Sending a kid to school in Bangladesh means creating a pressure on the family for the availability of bread though up to 12th class it's almost free. So in Bangladesh with the help of AID agencies government is providing even food if Kid goes to school (execution is a big question mark due to wide spread corruption though).

    In other parts of the world this CERTIFICATION is a Product to Sell. So you will find different price TAG for Degrees of different schools/ institutes / universities.

    In explanation you meant way of getting educated with which I agree you said for that universal connectivity we may need to wait a bit again due to poverty , economic condition, accessability as well intention of the leaders of different countries.

    For me to be EDUCATED no one actually need to go to school really but for being CERTIFIED everyone definitely need that...
  • Apr 30 2011: Yes that is very good observation. I think many people are aware of this situation and working on solutions. Khan Academy is one example, one laptop per child is another one.

    We do need some way to certify people in order to ensure only qualified individuals take on certain jobs (like a doctor) and we just need to make that certification more open and available to all people?
    • May 1 2011: Yes, precisely that is I what I intended in my query.
      Some professions like medicine would undoubtedly require the rigour of years before the doctors take care of OPD or ICUs. But in case of general public education, Khan Academy as well as many more open source material from many well known universities can enable learner without attending a 'regular' school. As regards the certification, some of these universities can do the job without asking for huge sum...
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      May 2 2011: Information access is not the same as education.

      Quality control (certification) is not education either.
      • May 2 2011: How about calling it learning rather than education? Then information access itself allows people to learn. And quality control is also a result of learning. Just a different perspective, I assume :)
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          May 13 2011: Hello Sanjay, I use lately 'to grow your brain' to get away from education stigma of industrial age. Our body grows, our mind grows. It's an organic happening, so why not naming it that way I wondered.

          And we need some certification sometimes as we didn't invent a pill yet which makes us unable to lie for personal gain.
      • May 4 2011: Both seem information access and quality control seem to be necessary part of education?