May 31, 2018 | Thursday

Education is the Edifice of Progress

In the year 1914, John Alexander Smith, Professor of Moral and Metaphysical Philosophy at Magdalen College, Oxford, said in a speech to students: “… you are now about to embark on a course of studies which will occupy you for two years. Together, they form a noble adventure. But I would like to remind you of an important point. Nothing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in after life, save only this, that if you work hard and intelligently you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole, purpose of education.”

I begin my piece with this powerful quote because many Kosovars believe the purpose of education is to learn and apply everything they’ve studied through their studies to their future jobs. Some others fundamentally believe on the power of the diploma as a prerequisite to get a certain job; thus, differentiating themselves from the “crowd” having acquired a certain degree and fulfilling empty requirements. Viewing education only as a piece of paper, qualification or status, is a serious problem that needs to be deconstructed.

This is not a critique per se; but rather, a normative statement. I will be using the term “essence” quite a lot in this short essay, therefore I want to explain that my personal viewpoint of “essence” is: indispensable quality. Ergo, the indispensable quality of education is not economic growth or job opportunities, but personal growth. The essence of education is to identify non-sense and misconceptions (e.g. logical fallacies). Living in in a post-Truth era and arguing critically is a challenging thing to do, and critical thinking—according to Professor Smith—is the goal of education.

Education is essential because it changes people’s mindset and opens new channels of thinking; consequently, creates more space for grasping and accepting information unfamiliar to us. Simply put, education helps on widening the perspective of a person. Alvin Toffer once said, “The illiterate of the twenty-first century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” Education challenges taboos and paves the way to create individual opinions. Education fights gullibility, jingoism and myopic views, and make us more ungenuine.

However, education does not start in school. It is easy to point our fingers at the institutions, teachers and poor infrastructure; but the fact is education begins in our families. According to a recent study conducted by ETEA NGO, approximately 60% of the Kosovar high school students in Pristina are not able to remember three book titles. Yes, shocking and morbid! Let us reflect on that for a moment and begin first and foremost changing ourselves and our families. The culture of reading begins in our families, so if we do not read in front of our children and if we never send them to a bookstore or theatre, we cannot instill the culture of reading. Consequently, if we fail to instill this culture at an early stage in their lives, they will be part of a poor cyclic educational system.

The international community in Kosovo has realized that they can only built a sustainable future by investing in youth. USAID has launched its biggest educational program “Transformational Leadership Program” offering various scholarships and partnerships. In Sofia, during the EU-Western Balkans Summit, the EU has announced it will double the funding for Erasmus+. The EU’s office in Kosovo most recent campaign focuses dutifully on quality education. The term quality is not placed there to rhyme. We are aware that post-war Kosovo has experienced an enormous increase in college students and the creation of dozens of new private colleges. The quantity has increased significantly, not quality unfortunately. Such projects and initiatives will undoubtedly further enhance support for education in Kosovo and improve the general quality of education.

Education is the edifice of society. Education is a basic human right. The right to education is reflected in international law in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights. We should appreciate education more and enjoy the freedom to be educated because above all, education prepares us as human beings and makes us more tolerant.