Tag Archives: Khan Academy

What Price Education?

The answer to the above question usually comes up as somewhere between “too much” and “way too much.” It’s kind of strange that, today, when we are both in possession of more knowledge than ever in the history of the planet and it is becoming more and more accessible each hour of the day, that, at the same time, the cost seems to keep going up along with our unwillingness to pay, both seem to be trending upward every day.

And yet, maybe education costs nothing at all except for time? Trends in recent technology have given us the Khan Academy, which has burgeoned into an international sensation. And now YouTube is on-board with EDU – YouTube, making college-level lectures accessible from the top academicians in the world and also free. In addition, MIT has announced that it will be trialling a purely “automated” course online, accessible from anywhere in the world, and will actually give credit for this. In an age of ever-increasing student population, demand for the best education, and limited physical classroom place, this opens up even more possibilities.

But how do you value all this? More importantly, how do those people involved in educating the future leaders, scientists, poets, engineers, etc… of the world, get paid for what they do, when lots of what they do can now be found for free?

Maybe the kids can all just educate themselves? (As these street kids in India, somehow managed to do.)

I don’t think so. I believe the true purpose of good teaching is now clearer than ever before. We can’t just stuff kids heads full of facts anymore, push them through tests and grade levels, and then toss them out into the “real” world where they have a piece of paper that will assure them, at the very least, a job at a factory, fast-food outlet, retail company, or in an office somewhere.

Why not? Because those jobs are disappearing. Fast. Really fast. The robots are coming. (They’re flying, zooming, clicking and clacking into our lives, and even folding shirts.) Those basic jobs are going away forever.

There is really only one choice for us, not just as Americans, but as humans, to survive and thrive. And that’s to teach our kids to innovate, create, engineer, design, explore, shape, tool, express, write, sing, dance, act, even play, their way into the future. The future holds a multitude of jobs for scientists, engineers, craftspeople, writers, designers, architects, chefs, gardeners, and teachers, but not a whole lot of positions will be open for line jobs on the factory floor folding shirts.

How we teach our children to survive and thrive in the world to come will be largely dependent on our teachers. That skill is certainly worth paying however much it is worth. Because it’s priceless.

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC


This is one of my favorite indicators in terms of having a high impact on the quality of life for people all over the world. And it’s just getting better and better which makes it almost fun to look at and update.

One major factor in this, again, is the impact of the Millennium Development Goals and their emphasis on girls’ education. The importance of this can hardly be emphasized enough. Study after study has shown that educating a community’s girls pays off in dividends of lower infant and maternal mortality, better overall health, and lower rates of preventable diseases, not to mention happier girls.

It’s not just the girls of course — children all over the planet have access to education at a rate never seen before. (I’ll address this in my next post.) The phenomenal growth of the internet is speeding this process up even further through free online education programs such as the ground-breaking Khan Academy.

The gauge I’ve used to measure this indicator is the Education Index from the UN as posted on Wikipedia (with numbers from 2007). This index is put together from a combination of adult literacy, school enrollment and other data. Looking at the change over the 2006 figures, most of the countries either remained stable or increased their levels of education. (Out of the 179 countries listed, only 17 were lower.)

However, I’m a firm believer in ongoing education. We should never stop learning and exploring our world! In fact, in today’s economy, it isn’t possible to keep afloat without continually educating yourself. So someday, I would love to see this indicator be measured by the number of people per country gaining a college degree!

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC