Learning Is For Life, Liberty And HappinessEarl Harewood | Lecturer, Heriot-Watt University/School of Higher Education
Great nations became great, not only because of the nation’s natural resources or leadership, but because they knew how to leverage learning to create industries, wealth, liberty, parity, and improve the lives of their citizens. The United States is a fine example of this with the establishment of the Land Grant Colleges and Universities to help produce specific kinds of skilled labor to spearhead the development of the nation’s road, rail system, healthcare and education systems, communities and more all over the United States in the late 1800s. There are many stories about this kind of process embedded in the histories of many nations. Evidence of the benefits derived from leveraging education can be seen in the life of ordinary citizens all around the world. For instance, a Kenyan woman, Mutoko (2012) told a story about her mother Rose, who was once a committed mother and housewife but changed the trajectory of her life when she became a secretary when Mutoko was seven or eight years.
At fifty years old, Mutoko’s mother returned to school and today she is Group Human Resources Manager (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania) for Car & General. Motoko (2012) said “and today, my mum is a better mother, grandmother and friend all because of the education she had and the knowledge she pursues to this very day” (http://edition.cnn.com).There are many more story like this where despite the many setbacks, misalignment concerns, the family responsibilities, the financial challenges, the ill-fated decisions among other potential life “derailers,” people have been able to recognize their dreams. They were able to become what is in their hearts to become, what will make them suitably placed in a global economy and what will position them to be better able to provide for themselves and their families and become meaningful contributors in their communities and nations. They made it because of those who saw lifelong learning as a need and pathways to build individuals, families, communities and nations and to grow organizations that will create sophisticated systems, and processes, products and plants and generate employment opportunities as they grow.
Thus, “education creates improved citizens and help to upgrade the general standard of living in a society” (Olaniyan and Okemakinde, 2008, p. 157). The trajectory of Motoko’s mother life and the many others tell important story about lifelong learning. It said that lifelong learning is for life as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness seems to be a lifelong endeavor. More so today as economies have crumbled; the middle class has dissipated and the poor seems to be getting further and further from the radar; higher education institutions seem to becoming more and more of a political pendulum; students seems to be less and less and less prepared for the realities of functioning in a global economy; curriculum restructuring seems perpetually resisted; financial resources to fund higher education seems fewer and fewer; and leadership seems lost in the mire of indecisiveness.
Education suffers when it is viewed as a unit of production. It is an input, but it has far greater value than land and capital. Land and capital can’t think and make important decisions about it selves; it takes well-trained and developed people to manipulate the use of the land and the capital to generate returns for adding new processes and practices; for developing sound financial and other systems; for strategic planning and positioning; for expanding into new markets; for developing new products and services; and for generation new jobs for diverse persons. Still, for too many in developing and underdeveloped nations education remains a luxury because in the everyday activities of educating citizens, many are excluded from receiving a basic education. Thus, it is fitting to echo the sentiments of Olaniyan and Okemakinde (2008) who both took the position that “education is an economic good because it is not easily obtainable and thus need to be apportioned.” But this is a different period in the world’s history where everyone and everything is too interconnected for anyone to be excluded from receiving the education preparation needed for suitable placement in the global economy. No one knows what new industries might evolve in a country, what new resources might be found or used differently or what kinds of collaborative relationships might need to be fostered that require suitably trained-developed workers, but everyone must be ready. Globalization places a natural demand for workers to develop and use different kinds of intelligences, and higher education institutions needs to ensure that these are developed in their students and make room for learners they might not otherwise invite to their institutions.
Education by its very nature has many issues associated with it. In some cases it is viewed as inadequate; it is seen as not being comprehensive enough; it is not properly sequenced; it cost too much; there isn’t enough programs; it’s not equitable enough; programs lack variety; it’s a political football; its misaligned; it lacks variety; not accurately financed; policies don’t reflect the realities all around the world; it is good for some and not for others; age tends to be a marker for when education begin and when it ends. Despite these challenges, what is clear about education is that it has to be a life-long endeavor. Higher education leaders and politicians must recognize this reality and begin to adjust their processes, systems and their politicking for a reality where all persons must matter in the educational process and must be so provided for. There is a known fact and that is persons can learn and do learn differently. Since, all persons have the capacity to learn, they must be given the chance to learn and become contributing members of their families, communities, organizations and nations. It is only with this kind of commitment to lifelong learning that nations will achieve successful placement in this global nebulous economy.
Olaniyan, D. A. and Okemakinde, T. (2008). Human capital theory: Implications for educational development. European Journal of Scientific Research, 24(2), 157-162.
Mutoko, C. (May 13, 2012). Special CNN: ‘African women need a hand-up not a hand-Retrieved May 13, 2012 from http://edition.cnn.com/2012/05/04/world/africa/mutoko-women-africa/index.html?hpt=hp_mid.
Author Perspective: Educator