Friday, August 31, 2007

OpenEd Week 1: The right to education

First of all, I believe that education is a right to a certain age. I agree with Tomasevski when she says that it should be mandated to the age that students can begin working. I also believe governments should mandate education to a certain extent to that age, but I think I disagree with her on who should mandate and what education should be. Also, I hope that governments would not choose to foolishly mandate education universally even though parents and children may not want to go. Governments should educate these people about the importance of education and persuade them to go, but ultimately, people would be allowed to choose for themselves.

When talking about education for all, we must first talk about what education should be and what it should not be. Mandating an education that is not beneficial for its students is naïve and harmful. Tomasevski talks about differing schools around the world that use prejudice and hatred as part of their curriculum. Clearly it would be putting the cart before the horse to mandate that students attend these schools.

We need to first examine and improve what schools are teaching before we begin to call it a right to go to them. But what about the schools that are teaching good things to students already? I submit that any school curriculum can be improved to help students become better prepared to take productive roles in society. This, I believe is where instructional technology really matches Open Education. If instructional technologists are going to be of any use, they will be improving instruction, not providing information. Anyone with any computer expertise from any field could help someone provide Open Educational resources or content, but only a skilled instructional designer could make use of those resources in a meaningful and effective manner, or help others do so. Instructional designers are not and should not be merely content providers.

According to Tomasevski, Technical schooling is often seen as useless, yet didactic learning is mind-numbing to students. This, I believe, is also an important area for instructional technologists. I highly doubt that technical schooling is universally seen as useless, especially when it can lead to jobs and help people to become competent. In places where it is seen as useless, let's improve it. Where there is didactic learning that is mind numbing, let's adjust what is taught and improve students outlook. Obviously there needs to be improvement in economies and a change of attitudes toward education. Especially in cases where people just expect school to lead to an office job without fail. Spreading education should be a government and tax based initiative involving many different academic disciplines, but improving it should be done with help from the instructional technology and education disciplines.

Education is not always a good thing. We often talk about this in instructional technology settings, when you can teach anything very effectively, what kinds of things should you teach? Tomasevski seems to like the idea of universally mandating a human rights curriculum that would be a part of each school's teaching. This is probably a good idea, but where will it end? For instance, Tomasevski and others may read studies that indicate that it is very healthy or useful to society to be a Muslim. It could then be mandated that fundamentals of Islam be taught in all schools while other religions of the world should not be taught. This may work very well in Iraq, but it would not fly in Israel.

I propose a balance between locally and universally mandated curriculum. I believe that those who are local will be more in touch with what skills, knowledge and attitudes students should have to make them more successful. Those who are on the global scale will only know about human rights issues on that scale. Their portion of this mandated curriculum should be very small. But there should be some checks between the local and global, meaning, the human rights advocates should be able to check curriculum items proposed by local governments for any violations of human rights.

If we can get education to the point where it is high-quality, then I believe we can ethically mandate it to a certain degree as long as it is also free. But this is another difficult issue. Most governments do not allocate or prioritize enough money for education. I believe that governments should pay for all mandated education in its entirety. They should also pay a fair salary to teachers.

Another issue is the right to education balanced with the right to refuse it. Tomasevski talks about sheepherding in Lesotho and how the governments denies the individuals the right to be educated after they are finished with their duties. Often these herders do not have enough food. But it is still naïve to project feelings onto these herders. They may enjoy immensely the opportunity to herd and hate the idea of being stuck inside all day. The tribes in Bolivia may contain members who would not want to go to school even if there were no prejudice against them. Is their right to education more important than their personal right to refuse it? I don't think so. if we go too far saying that we know what is best for someone else, where will it end? We may take away fundamental personal freedoms like freedom of speech because a study said that it leads to a better economy, or more educated people.

Governments have a need to educate their people. People who are educated make better moral and economic choices and the governments have interests in these things. Therefore governments should do all that is in their power to persuade citizens to go to school and educate them on the importance of doing so. But I think that there are some cases when it is not right to force someone to go to school.

Tomasevski indicates that one obstacle to the right to education is parents viewing their children as their own property rather that beings with rights to education. While I don't believe keeping children from school is equivalent to viewing them as property, I do believe that this is a problem in many parts of the world. I hope that the efforts to spread education continue but I also hope these are balanced with the rights of individuals to make choices.


  1. Your ideas are great! You make very clear understanding of the readings!

  2. I'm agree with Jessie about the quality of your ideas.
    Only I have some reserves on the affirmation about that governments should provide access to education but not force the parents about the way.
    It can be dangerous in the sense that the others aspects related with the right to education can't be handled by families.
    Some times even the government need to ensure that children receive good education in spite of their parents.
    For example, in Spain we have some people procedent from eastern europe who belongs to a gypsy culture: they are continuosly moving from one city to another one and their children doesn't receive a regular education. To be beneficiaries of social help they need to incribe theirselves in a municipality registry. But they usually don't do this, because if they have children, they have to send them to school and they can help their mothers in to beg for money.
    I really don't know how to handle this in general terms. Probably I've an opinion for specific problems but that fits for one circumstance maybe can't fit in another one.

  3. Thank you Jessie and Pedro. Thinking about this again, I believe that there are times when a government should compel people to go to school and times when they shouldn't. I am from the U.S.A. where individual freedoms are often seen as more important than institutional interests so that is my background. But I do very much see the importance of your side, Like Dr. Wiley mentioned, if mass amounts of people want no education, then the government would have to mandate it in the interest of society.