"I would argue that the most important infrastructure we have are minds, educated minds."
- Amel Karboul, Oct 2017, TED@BCG, Milan
Podcasts are a great way to keep up with new ideas and thoughts as well as to broaden the mind and challenge yourself. TED Talks Daily is one of the podcasts I listen to, and occasionally I will skip an episode because the subject is too far away from my interest to engage, or the speaker is not at all engaging. Recently, however, I listened to the global learning crisis and what to do about it. It was just merely the next episode in the list.
When the Dr. Amel Karboul opened by commenting that she is "the product of a bold leadership decision," and goes on to say that the first Tunisian President, Habib Bourguiba, made a decision to invest twenty percent of the country's national budget into education to ensure high-quality, free, education for every child, both girls and boys.
Immediately, my ears perked up. I did not know what percentage of our budget was dedicated to education (I have since looked and for 2017-18, it appears to be 7.28% based on this document) but I did not think it would be anywhere near twenty percent. There were protests, cries of what about...with lots of key infrastructure needs pointed to, however, Amel made an interesting point when she commented that she sees educated minds as the most important infrastructure.
Without an educated populace, how do you advance society?
Our national budget for 2017-18 is $464.3 billion dollars, investing twenty percent of that would be $92.86 billion. What could be achieved in education if that amount was invested? What gaps across early childhood, primary, secondary, and tertiary could be filled? Personally, I believe there would need to be a mix between investment in paying educators properly, particularly in early childhood, and investment in infrastructure. How many schools have old and ugly demountable buildings? How much more effective would it be to provide more space for the students to run around and play games during breaks if we built up? My school had thirteen demountables. Removing those and going three stories (at one end, only two stories at the other due to slope) provided so much more space for the students.
Forgetting about politics and the discussion around the funding split, what could be achieved if the government decided to invest in the future and value education so highly?
This point about valuing education and how much is invested is not even the most important point from Amel's talk, but it was one that struck me as significant given the current climate around education funding here in Australia.