Commercializing Education

Imagine yourselves as a swim instructor, given the task of providing the highest quality instruction to a group of students. You’re also sharing the pool with many other instructors, who have to convince parents that their method of instruction is the best, so there is market competition on which your revenue is dependent on.

The first instructor makes the pitch to the group of parents: “In my class, we will teach the flutter kick, arm movement, breathing, and let the kids go. Keeping it straightforward, you know.”

Right before the parents take out their fat purses, the second instructor goes: “I believe learning to swim is always an intimidating process, so in addition to the previous instructor, I will provide one-on-one time to individually hold each kid’s hands as they learn to swim, while holding their body in place.” The parents shift their stance.

Then the third instructor cuts in: “In addition to that, we will also provide free boards and flippers to ease the learning curve, while providing any floatation device the kid may need.”

The fourth instructor says: “Furthermore, I can provide live demonstrations!”

The fifth instructor says: “I will provide exclusive VIDEO instruction!”

The sixth instructor says: “With a degree in physics (no surprise that now I work here), I will also explain the MECHANICS of swimming before we even get in the pool!”

The seventh instructor says: “Imma just let the kids jump in and figure it out. Keepin’ it real, you know, like how it’s always been.”

The sixth instructor in the ends gets the most students (despite costing the most). At the end of ten lessons, all the students compete in a relay. Despite the glaring difference in instruction “quality” provided, the students of the first and seventh instructor win.

The thing is, as awesome as the other instructors made it sound, they forgot to prioritize the only thing that matters: let the damn kid swim. Had there not been the market/competition factor in the first place, everyone would’ve been better off.

This analogy, though a bit absurd, is exactly what the education industry has become. Commercializing education means that schools would rather add all the jabber to woo over parents and students, even if it goes against the common sense of what’s most effective. This is why socialist countries like Finland consistently rank the highest in education. Though adding competition is usually good for raising the standard of goods and works to the consumer benefit, educational quality is one of those intangible things that requires a deep connection between the teacher and student, one that is lost the more education becomes commercialized. More on this in the next post.

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