Have you ever had the opportunity to sit in a cockpit? When I learned how to fly, I was taught in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk. Obviously much smaller and very different from a Boeing or an Airbus but nevertheless fully equipped to get me off the ground. I later learned that the reason Cessna single engine airplanes were chosen most often to train student pilots was solely due to reputation; the plane being one of the most ‘forgiving’ aircrafts in the sky. Further translating – this aircraft is one of the easiest to operate and self-correcting machines in the industry. Why am I telling you all this? Because I like to compare education to an airplane.
Despite where you grow up in this world, the basic principles of education are the same – in some fashion, you’re taught: science, math, languages, arts, technology, engineering, civics, and a few other optional topics. Although this is true moving up to middle school and even high school in some cases, where the trajectory of the learning path changes and evolves is when we ascend (pun intended) to higher education. Higher Ed, generally speaking, is supposed to broaden our hunger for innovation and acceleration. The entirety of this depends on access to resources. Just as the footprint for educational courses are consistent, similarly in the world of aircrafts the forces of flight are standard - thrust, lift, drag, and weight all play a role. As do Bernoulli’s Principle and Newton’s Laws of Motion. But things do change (often dramatically) when you consider innovation, the evolution of aircraft technology(ies) and access to resources.
Although the foundation of Education seems similar on a global scale, evolution brought about by advancements in technology create a larger gap between nations which are better equipped to handle innovation when compared to nations that are dependent on aid to fund basic education. This has tipped the scale towards a large number of groups of students migrating to developed nations to receive access to well-rounded higher education. In the United States alone, in 2015, there were 975,000 International Students enrolled in Colleges and Universities, a continuously increasing number. These nations have even gone further to give students access to extend their stay within these countries for their economies to benefit from the knowledge earned. However, the bigger question remains: what about the students unable to migrate to better educational climates? What do they do to create their dual-engine commercial Airbus Jet from a single-engine Cessna?
One example that’s gaining notoriety - the United Kingdom has a large platform known as Transnational Education (TNE). TNE is providing students the opportunity to receive a foreign education without leaving their home country – bringing content/instruction to the students through distance learning programs, teaching partnerships, off-shore campuses, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Collectively this supports the goal of expanding the UK’s international student outreach sector in the Education arena. This not only contributes to bettering the economy of the host country, it also serves to impact the UK’s own economic initiatives. According to a report by Department for Business Innovation & Skills TNEs contributed fee revenues and an estimated annual value of £496 million to the UK economy in 2015 which converted to USD is around $689 million. For example, if the UK was to partner to offer their programming with a local institution, there is a revenue share agreement for each student that enrolls, contributing to both countries. Even if the UK also has its own independent programs and the fees are paid directly to the UK institutions, these programs are still required to adhere to each countries education requirements and tax codes, still contributing to both economies. With the current pace of growth, the TNE’s have proven to be a sector worth growing by the UK Institutions.
The effort to bring equal opportunities and access to Education across the globe does not stop there. The United Nations has spearheaded an effort to achieve global sustainable growth (Sustainable Development Goals). Included in this framework is Quality Education, Goal 4, to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong opportunities for all.” The UN’s launch of these goals ensure that all member nations work towards accomplishing these by 2030.
In addition to these macro efforts, there are also a large number of non-profits with focus on education development increasing accessibility to students across the globe by; largely occurring through the repurposing of resources with aid and funding from private entities. The efforts currently being put forth are noble, however there is still much work to do in order to establish global equality in education.
Going back to my analogy - education is like an airplane. We know the foundation of topics needed for a well-rounded education and we know the principles necessary for flight. However, knowing the principles won’t allow for a successful flight without putting those components together correctly, (global) education should take a cue and work to establish a standardized framework. Unfortunately, the ‘wings’ we refer to with education aren’t always made readily available to the countries which require it (due to any number of limitations – financial, resources limits, or otherwise). However, there is hope – the world is much smaller than it was ten years ago and many more initiatives are being launched by a generation of individuals focused on improving on a global scale. Wherever you are in the world, everyone has a right to receive a well-rounded (and quality) education. As we advance through these ever-evolving times, the question to ask yourself is: where do you choose to pilot your airplane?